Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Translate
Translate
menu iconMenu
search iconSearch

Tumor Metastasis with a Twist

 

March 14, 2011  |   

Protein is key to early embryonic development, but later promotes spread of cancer

In the early stages of human embryogenesis, a transcription factor called Twist1 plays a key regulatory role in how the embryo assumes form and function. Much later in life, however, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, say Twist1 can re-emerge, taking a darker and more deadly turn.

In a paper published in the March 15, 2011 issue of Cancer Cell, UCSD scientists led by Jing Yang, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and pediatrics, identify a unique function of Twist1 in later life: it promotes the formation of invadopodia in tumor cells, a vital step in the spread of such cells (metastasis) to surrounding tissues and other parts of the body.

Invadopodia (meaning “invasive feet”) are tiny protrusions of tumor cells that extend into the extracellular matrix – the surrounding connective tissue and fibers that provide support. Invadopodia concentrate enzymes that degrade the matrix so that tumor cells can break away and metastasize.

Previous studies have linked the expression of Twist1 to many aggressive, solid-tumor cancers, including melanomas, neuroblastomas, as well as breast and prostate cancer. The new research by Yang and colleagues describes in detail how Twist1 initiates the multi-step pathway resulting in invadopodia formation and matrix degradation. The research also reveals places in the process that may present potential targets for future anti-metastasis therapies.

After embryogenesis, Twist1 is normally suppressed. Cancer cells, however, reactivate the transcription factor, enabling Twist1 to initiate its complex pathway leading to metastasis. Drug designers, however, have yet to successfully devise a way to directly inhibit transcription factors like Twist1. The UCSD study points to other possibilities.

“We hope to inhibit downstream targets of Twist1 (such as platelet-derived growth factor receptors) to inhibit invadopodia formation and function,” Yang said. “Our study suggests that inhibition of invadopodia-mediated matrix degradation could be an effective way to suppress metastasis.”

If that happens, a cancer tumor becomes a stable, unmoving and easier target for other types of therapeutic treatments.

Co-authors of the paper include Mark A. Eckert and Andrew T. Chang, UCSD Molecular Pathology Graduate Program and Biomedical Science Graduate Program; Thinzar M. Lwin and Etienne Danis, UCSD Department of Pharmacology; and Jihoon Kim and Lucila Ohno-Machado, UCSD Division of Biomedical Informatics.

Research funding came, in part, from the National Institutes of Health, the Sydney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research, the California Breast Cancer Research Program and the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

# # #

Media Contact: Scott LaFee, 619-543-6163, slafee@ucsd.edu

Related Specialties

Cancer


Media Contact

Related News

4/20/2015
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center have discovered a molecular mechanism that connects breast tissue stiffness to tumor metastasis and p ...
4/20/2015
A decrease in the amount of time spent eating and an increase in overnight fasting reduces glucose levels and may reduce the risk of breast cancer among women, report University of California, San Die ...
4/20/2015
The threat of falsified medications, also referred to as counterfeit, fraudulent, and substandard, can be quite real, yet the full scope and prevalence of the problem is poorly understood, say researc ...
4/17/2015
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have created an in vitro, live-cell artificial vessel that can be used to study both the application and effects of devices us ...
4/16/2015
The increase in use of e-cigarettes has led to heated debates between opponents who question the safety of these devices and proponents who claim the battery-operated products are a useful cessation t ...
4/16/2015
An international team of scientists, led by researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, have found genetic overlap between Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and two significant cardi ...
4/13/2015
About one quarter of all atrial fibrillation patients at the lowest risk for stroke receive unnecessary blood thinners from cardiology specialists, according to a new study by researchers at Universit ...
4/9/2015
A family of proteins called G proteins are a recognized component of the communication system the human body uses to sense hormones and other chemicals in the bloodstream and to send messages to cells ...