MAR 20, 2015 10:16 AM PDT

Potential Drug Target Found to Prevent Bowel Cancer Spread

Monash scientists have discovered a molecule that is crucial to the survival of stem cells in the intestine.

Importantly, the molecule plays a key role in bowel cancer - particularly its deadly ability to metastasise. The newly discovered molecule may act as an indicator of how aggressive colorectal cancer is, as well as acting as a target for treatment aimed at preventing the bowel cancer spreading.

The finding, published in the prestigious European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) journal, opens the way to promote the regeneration of intestinal cells in patients with bowel disease, and in those who are undergoing chemotherapy who often have gut problems. Importantly blocking the molecule could prevent the spread of bowel cancer once it is detected.

The molecule was discovered by studying the specialized tissue which forms the inner lining of the digestive tract that absorbs nutrients from the diet but is also where bowel cancer initiates.

According to the lead researcher, Associate Professor Helen Abud, from the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Monash School of Biomedical Sciences, the tissue was examined using a unique culture system which can be used to study the role of the molecule in normal and cancerous tissue - as well as in chemotherapy and radiation resistant tumours.

Because the intestine plays key roles in absorbing nutrients and acts as a frontline defence against microbes, any damage must be fixed promptly. Unlike most other body tissues, the lifespan of cells that line the gut is incredibly short and relies on a small store of immature adult stem cells that can differentiate into more mature, specialized cell types every three to seven days.

However, overactive stem cells here can lead to bowel cancer, and underactive cells to a loss of intestinal lining. According to Associate Professor Abud, too few new cells can strip the intestinal lining and cause painful inflammation and ulcerations, which can happen after infections or cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

"It can also happen in the 10 per cent of premature babies who get necrotising enterocolitis, often treated by removing large sections of the bowel, leaving some of them unable to draw enough nutrition from ingested food," she said.

Associate Professor Abud worked with Melbourne University's Associate Professor Gary Hime and Associate Professor Paul McMurrick, from Cabrini, as well as colleagues in Europe and Singapore.

The molecule's strong association with intestinal tissue being cancerous potentially gives developers of future bowel cancer treatments clear targets to ensure tumours never return, especially the most aggressive kind, she said.

Associate Professor Abud is currently collaborating with surgeons led by Cabrini Hospital to see if levels of the molecule correlate to particular tumours, potentially allowing the severity of tumour growth to be predicted.

Source: Monash University
About the Author
  • Ilene Schneider is the owner of Schneider the Writer, a firm that provides communications for health care, high technology and service enterprises. Her specialties include public relations, media relations, advertising, journalistic writing, editing, grant writing and corporate creativity consulting services. Prior to starting her own business in 1985, Ilene was editor of the Cleveland edition of TV Guide, associate editor of School Product News (Penton Publishing) and senior public relations representative at Beckman Instruments, Inc. She was profiled in a book, How to Open and Operate a Home-Based Writing Business and listed in Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in Advertising and Who's Who in Media and Communications. She was the recipient of the Women in Communications, Inc. Clarion Award in advertising. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ilene and her family have lived in Irvine, California, since 1978.
You May Also Like
JUL 17, 2018
Cancer
JUL 17, 2018
Immunotherapy Diversification: From CAR-T cells to CAR-NK cells
New advances have made it possible for immunotherapy researchers to use natural killer cells, which are our body's normal defense for cancerous cells, to target tumors....
AUG 21, 2018
Health & Medicine
AUG 21, 2018
First, They Came for the Straws...Now the Soda?
Bans on plastic straws and utensils are all over the news recently. While taking care of the planet is crucial, some critics say that banning plastic straw...
SEP 15, 2018
Cancer
SEP 15, 2018
Undescended testicles could lead to testicular cancer and infertility in adult males
An undescended testis (cryptorchidism) is a condition in which one of the testes or both have not descended into the right position in the scrotum at birth and either stay at the abdomen or d...
SEP 26, 2018
Videos
SEP 26, 2018
Cancer Immunotherapy
Video illustration about how tumor cells are sensed and destroyed by the immune system and how tumors evolve and detect immune-mediated eliminations, as well as iimmunotherapies associated....
DEC 04, 2018
Drug Discovery
DEC 04, 2018
Drug Combination May Be Effective for Melanoma
Protein kinase inhibitors have been noted to be the most effective class of drugs in the treatment of melanoma—a deadly skin cancer of the melanocyte...
DEC 05, 2018
Cancer
DEC 05, 2018
Zika virus as a weapon against brain cancer
Glioblastoma is the most aggressive type of Brain Cancer with an average survival rate of less than two years with treatment. So what if there could be a cure for this type of cancer....
Loading Comments...