The Academy: March 2007

By Nick Rose
Published: Tuesday, Aug 17, 2010

University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

    Salk Institute for Biological Studies

    La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology

UCSD Researchers Discover a Protein Linking Inflammation and Cancer

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology reported in the January 26 issue of Cell that they found a mechanism through which chronic inflammation can promote cancer.

The study found that p100, a protein that is related to inflammation, is also an integral part of cellular development. This means that what were once thought of as two distinct cell processes, development and inflammation, actually respond to and are dependent on the other process.

This also explains why chronic inflammation has been linked to cancer. “Although there is plenty of evidence that chronic inflammation can promote cancer, the cause of this relationship is not understood. We have identified a basic cellular mechanism that we think may be linking chronic inflammation and cancer,” said Alexander Hoffmann, PhD, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UCSD, who led the study.

What the researchers found was that increases in the concentration of p100 are caused by inflammation; they also found that p100 is necessary for certain steps in normal cell building, which allows it to act as a signal between inflammation and the building process.

“In the case of chronic inflammation, the presence of too much p100 may over-activate the developmental pathway, resulting in cancer,” stated Dr. Hoffmann. This development could lead to new breakthroughs in cancer therapies, since most of the cellular signaling for the development process takes place outside the cell. Finding ways to stop cancer outside the cell could be easier for researchers than getting therapies into the cells.

The research team’s focus was initially drawn to the p100 protein through a mathematical model they developed to run 98 biochemical reactions in both the inflammation and development pathways. The model suggested that significant inflammation would lead to a sustained increase in p100.

%u25BA University of Michigan's Comprehensive Cancer Center

    Stanford University School of Medicine

Biomarker for Head and Neck Stem Cells Discovered

Researchers believe that CD44, which is a biomarker for breast cancer stem cells, is also a biomarker for lung and neck cancer stem cells. According to a report in the January 16 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, researchers at the University of Michigan’s Comprehensive Cancer Center and Stanford University School of Medicine have found that CD44 on head and neck tumor cells is indicative of the replicating cancer cells.

Recent data has supported the theory that replicating cancer cells, or cancer stem cells, are the only cells that are essential to cancer’s growth and progression. Cancer stem cells have been found in breast, brain, and colon cancer, and now, in this study, they have been found in head and neck cancer.

The study separated out cancer cells taken from head and neck cancer by their expression of CD44. The divided cells were then implanted into immune-deficient mice to promote tumor growth. The researchers found that the CD44 cells were able to grow new tumors that were identical to the previous tumor, while the non-CD44 cells were unable to produce new tumors. Researchers also found that the new tumors contain cells that both expressed and didn’t express CD44.

“The CD44-positive cells contain the tumorigenic cells, but we don’t think that’s a pure population of cancer stem cells. We still need to drill down further to find the subpopulation of those cells that is the pure version,” states Mark Prince, MD, author of the study, assistant professor of otolaryngology at the University of Michigan Medical School, and section chief of otolaryngology at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

%u25BA University of Rochester

Expression of Cancer Promoter Linked to Body Mass

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TitleExpiration DateCME Credits
Year in Review™: Reflecting on Recent Evidence With an Eye to the Future of Lung Cancer ManagementMar 30, 20191.5
Online Medical Crossfire®: 5th Annual Miami Lung Cancer ConferenceMay 30, 20196.5
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