Monday, 7 January 2013

Ovarian cancer study paves the way for more efficient cancer therapies

Today, scientists from the Yale School of medicine announced that they have discovered an important connection between cancer stem cells and the development of ovarian cancers. The study is available online on Cell Cycle. Lead author of the study is Yingqun Huang.

The study focuses on two main concepts. The first concept is that behind every tumour lies a small number of cancer stem cells that are responsible for its continuous growth and development. According to this concept, conventional therapies are successful in killing the bulk of tumour cells but fail to destroy the environment that actually promotes the growth of cancer stem cells.

The second concept is dubbed as "seed and soil" and revolves around the aforementioned environment itself and its properties. According to Nita J. Maihle, co-author of the study, an effective cancer therapy should take both concepts under consideration:

"Both concepts have particular relevance for the treatment of adult solid tumours such as ovarian cancer, which has been notoriously difficult to diagnose and treat." and added

"Ovarian cancer patients are plagued by recurrences of tumour cells that are resistant to chemotherapy, ultimately leading to uncontrolled cancer growth and death."

In their study, the research team describes how they managed to define the molecular basis of the interaction of these two concepts in the case of ovarian cancer. Specifically, they demonstrated a regulatory connection between the stem cell factor Lin28 and the signalling molecule bone morphogenic protein 4 (BMP4).

Image of Protein BMP4 PDB
Protein BMP4 

The researchers believe that their findings will pave the way for more efficient future cancer treatments.

"Together these studies reveal new targets for the development of cancer therapies." said Maihle.

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer among women, and the leading death-causing reproductive cancer. The causes of ovarian cancer are still a mystery. Signs and symptoms during the early developmental stages of the cancer are usually absent or very subtle. When present, they  persist for several months and can be easily confused with symptoms of other illnesses. The most typical symptoms of Ovarian cancer include:
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Bloating
  • Difficulty eating
  • Frequent urination
Informational video about the Ovarian Cancer

Yingqun Huang is an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynaecology & Reproductive Sciences

Nita J. Maihle is a professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynaecology & Reproductive Sciences and a member of Yale Cancer Centre.

Citation: Cell Cycle Vol. 12, Issue 1





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