Scientists hail cancer research discovery

  Scientists hail cancer research discovery

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Scientists have claimed a major breakthrough which could lead to more effective treatments for throat and cervical cancers.

Queen’s University Belfast said the discovery could see the development of new therapies to target non-cancerous cells surrounding a tumour, as well as the tumour itself. Cancer research and cell biology experts said they found that the non-cancerous tissue, or “stroma”, surrounding cancers of the throat and cervix plays an important role in regulating the spread of cancer. Queen’s believes this opens the door for the development of treatments targeting the non-cancerous tissue to help prevent it being invaded by neighbouring cancer cells. Dennis McCance, who led the research, said: “Cancer spreads as the result of two-way communication between the cancer cells in a tumour and the non-cancerous cells in the surrounding tissue. “We already know that cancer cells are intrinsic-ally programmed to invade neighbouring healthy tissue. But the cells in the non-cancerous tissue are also programmed to send messages to the cancer cells, actively encouraging them to invade. “If these messages — sent from the healthy tissue to the tumour — can be switched-off, then the spread of the cancer will be inhibited. “What we have discovered is that a particular protein in non-cancerous tissue has the ability to either open or close the communication pathway between the healthy tissue and the tumour. When the Retinoblastoma protein (Rb) in non-cancerous tissue is activated, this leads to a decrease in factors that encourage invasion by cancer cells. and so, the cancer doesn’t spread.” the research was published in the European Molecular Biology Organisation Journal. Queen’s said the Rb protein was found in both cancer and non-cancerous tissue, and that its importance in regulating the growth of cancer cells from within tumours was already well-documented. However, it was the first time scientists had identified the role of the Rb found in healthy tissue in encouraging or discouraging the spread of cancer. Prof McCance said: “Current treatments for cancer focus on targeting the tumour itself, in order to kill the cancer cells before they spread. “This discovery opens the door for us to develop new treatments that would target the normal tissue surrounding a tumour… “By specifically targeting pathways controlled by the Rb protein, it would be possible to switch off the messages that encourage cancer cells to invade, and inhibit the spread of the tumour. “It is possible that Rb or other proteins in the healthy tissue surrounding other types of cancer, may play a similar role in regulating the spread of tumour cells. “Therefore, the implications of this discovery could go far beyond throat and cervical cancer, and that is something we plan to investigate further.”

a d v e r t i s e m e n t

This appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Thursday, August 09, 2012

Scientists hail cancer research discovery

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