The vulnerability of cancer cells points to a possible treatment route for aggressive disease

Image of a triple negative breast cancer cell that undergoes abnormal division after KIF18A inhibition (red = microtubules; green = chromosomes; yellow = spindle poles). Credit: Cindy Fonseca, MS, Stumpff Lab, UVM Larner College of Medicine

Unraveling the unique characteristics of cancer cells and finding less harmful ways to stop their growth has long been a focus for cancer researchers around the world. New findings, reported in Communications from nature, describe the discovery of cancer cells’ unique dependence on a particular protein, which could lead to desperately needed treatment for difficult-to-treat cancers.

The publication culminates a series of groundbreaking studies that appear in Nature journals over the past month by members of a powerful international research collaboration.

Lead author and University of Vermont (UVM) Cancer Center researcher Jason Stumpff, Ph.D., has spent more than two decades studying how cells divide and how errors in this process contribute to diseases, such as Cancer. His recent work has improved understanding of the role of a protein called KIF18A in driving cell division. In these new studies, Stumpff’s lab shows that cancer cells, with the kinds of abnormalities seen in aggressive tumors, are more dependent on KIF18A for growth than normal cells. This vulnerability in cancer cells could be a potential target for disrupting cancer cell growth, as the researchers demonstrated in triple-negative breast cancer and colorectal cancer cells.

These findings mark an important step in a long research journey that began with the support of a pilot institutional research grant award from the American Cancer Society through the University of Vermont Cancer Center, and later led to funding. by Susan G. Komen and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Stumpff, an associate professor of molecular physiology and biophysics at UVM’s Larner School of Medicine, decided to publish his team’s findings in advance, via open access preprint. This led to an international collaboration with teams from Tel Aviv University, Israel, and the Boston University School of Medicine. Each team was investigating the genes necessary for the growth of tumor cells that contain an abnormal number of chromosomes – the thread-like structures that carry a cell’s genetic information – to identify new therapeutic targets.

Stumpff is an expert in the mechanical control of cell division and the aspects of this process that contribute to the development of diseases such as cancer. His colleagues at Tel Aviv University were studying aneuploidy, which occurs when one or more chromosomes are added or removed after cell division, and partners from Boston University focused on the duplication of the entire genome, where it is found. a complete set of duplicated chromosomes in a daughter cell after division.

The role of KIF18A was important in the work of each team and contributed to a clearer and broader picture of its role and importance in disrupting the growth of abnormal tumor cells. Central to the series of group discoveries was early exchange of unpublished knowledge and data, as well as collective question problem solving and verification of findings. Their efforts paid off: three posts in Nature Y Communications from nature reporting groundbreaking findings that could contribute to more specific and less harmful drug treatments for some cancers.

The confluence of openly shared data, the participation of clinical experts and cancer patients, and leveraging a collaborative approach were key components of the success of this research, Stumpff notes.

“The collective impact of this research collaboration exemplifies the importance of sharing data and enhancing the rigor of scientific studies to effectively advance fundamental science discovery toward significant progress in the fight against cancer,” says Stumpff. “This work has the potential to improve approaches to patient treatment in the future, and we are excited to keep it moving.”

A new study reveals a vulnerability of cancer cells

More information:
Communications from nature (2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-021-21447-2

Provided by Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont

Citation: Cancer Cell Vulnerability Points to Possible Treatment Route for Aggressive Disease (2021, Feb 22) Retrieved Feb 22, 2021 from -vulnerability-potential-treatment.html

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