Gene discovered that could see common household drugs harnessed to fight cancer spread
Gene discovered that could see common household drugs harnessed to fight cancer spread - Research at Peter Mac
|One of the ways that cancer spreads from its initial tumour site is through the lymphatic network. When preparing to metastasise (spread) a primary tumour secretes growth factors (orange ovals, above) that settle on the surface of nearby lymphatic vessels, encouraging them to widen, boosting their capacity to carry more cancer cells to the lymph nodes and out to the rest of the body. |
Researchers have found a gene that links a class of drugs called NSAIDs (of which aspirin is a well-known member) to this process, paving the way for new therapies to be developed to stop and reverse this process.
|Peter Mac researchers have made a biological breakthrough that explains how lymphatic vessels respond to cancer, shedding light on the anti-cancer properties of some common household drugs and paving the way for new treatments to prevent cancer spread.|
|For many years, doctors have observed the beneficial impact of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, in cancer, without fully comprehending the biological processes involved. Now, researchers from the Tumour Angiogenesis Program at Peter Mac have pinpointed a link between NSAIDs and the ability for tumours to spread in the body, as published today in the world’s pre-eminent cancer biology journal Cancer Cell.|
‘We’ve known that tumours actively secrete a range of proteins and compounds, called growth factors, to attract blood and lymphatic vessels from within their immediate vicinity, enabling them to flourish and metastasise, or spread,’ explains Associate Professor Steven Stacker, senior author and Co-Head of the Tumour Angiogenesis Program.
‘In this research we have discovered that a gene (pgdh) links these growth factors to the prostaglandin cellular pathway – the pathway that can cause inflammation and dilation of vessels throughout the body. Basically, the growth factors released by tumours also encourage nearby collecting lymphatic vessels to widen, increasing the capacity for these “supply lines” to act as more effective conduits of cancer spread.’
Dr Tara Karnezis, co-lead author with Dr Ramin Shayan at Peter Mac, says that in understanding how these vital vessels are encouraged to widen (as shown in the diagram above), the beneficial effects of NSAIDs in cancer can be explained.
‘With many clinical trials around the world currently investigating the ability of NSAIDs to target the prostaglandin pathway, the discovery of this link unlocks a range of potentially powerful new therapies to target this pathway in lymphatic vessels, effectively tightening a tumour’s supply lines and restricting the transport of cancer cells to the rest of the body,’ she says.
‘The potential is incredibly exciting, as these new and improved drugs could help contain many solid epithelial tumours, including breast and prostate cancer, which affect large numbers of Australian men and women.’
The research findings also carry important implications for cancer care, with possible application to an ‘early warning system’ before the metastasis of a primary tumour.
‘Doctors may be able to analyse a tumour for signs that prostaglandin pathways are being influenced, evidence that the tumour may be preparing to metastasise, and then alter patient treatment accordingly,’ says Dr Karnezis.
Metastasis is the most lethal aspect of cancer as cancerous cells become increasingly unmanageable once they gather at secondary sites.