Scientists have found that a previously unknown link between two molecular pathways might be important in bowel cancer development, a study published in Nature* reveals today.

Researchers from Cancer Research UK’s London Research Institute looked at two distinct pathways involved in telling our cells which proteins to make to help cells grow and communicate with each other. They found that by blocking the interactions between the pathways, the number of tumours was reduced and the tumours were smaller.

This early discovery into the basic biology of bowel cancer could lead to new ways of preventing and treating the disease in the future.

The research group looked at two molecules called c-Jun and TCF4. These molecules are known as transcription factors. By binding to specific regions of DNA in our cells, transcription factors tell our cells which proteins to make.

Interactions between these transcription factors are necessary to produce a protein that promotes cancer.

The researchers’ latest findings show that when interactions between the two transcription factors were blocked, the onset of bowel cancer was delayed and tumour number and size was reduced.

Lead researcher, Dr Axel Behrens, from the London Research Institute says: “The discovery of a “crossroads” in these two cellular pathways, which were previously thought to be completely separate, is very interesting. Our experiments have shown that these pathways actually interact with each other and controlling this interaction may give an insight into the development of bowel cancer. We now need to follow up to discover if there are possible developments that could have clinical use.”

Dr Lesley Walker, Director of Cancer Information at Cancer Research UK says: “This research explains how two distinct cell-signalling pathways can play an important role in bowel cancer development and is a vital early step in our mission to understand the fundamental processes that go on inside cells that can then trigger cancer. Although this research is only at a very basic stage, the results from the researchers experiments were extremely encouraging.”


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* Interaction of phosphorylated c-Jun with TCF4 regulates intestinal cancer development (2005). Nature. Online edition.

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