CANCER RESEARCH UK scientists have linked cancer clues in faulty cells to provide a new route to cancer development, reveals a study* published in Developmental Cell today (Monday).
Cancer is a disease caused by uncontrolled cell growth and division and understanding the complex molecular networks inside cells which regulate these processes is fundamental to understanding what goes wrong in cancer.
Researchers at the University of Liverpool used flies to understand how cell growth and division is controlled. Many of the proteins found in fly cells are also present in human cells and since fly cells are less complicated and grow faster than human cells they are easier to study and enable scientists to see changes more quickly.
They linked together pieces of a complex puzzle inside fly cells to show that signals from outside the cell are fed through a protein called pico – which has an equivalent protein called Lamellipodin in humans. This process ultimately regulates cell growth and division and understanding it will help improve our knowledge of how cancer develops.
This research unravels for the first time an intricate new pathway which helps explain the biochemistry behind a broad range of cancers.
Lead author, Cancer Research UK scientist Dr Ekaterina Lyulcheva, who is based at the University of Liverpool, said: “Before now, scientists knew about the presence of these molecules and their possible link to cancer, but no one knew how they talked to each other, to ultimately control tissue growth.”
Laboratory head and corresponding author Dr Daimark Bennett, also based at the University of Liverpool said: “We are extremely excited to have unlocked the key to a completely new route to cancer development and hope it will kick start a whole new direction for powerful research projects to block points in this pathway through the development of new drugs.”
The scientists made the connection that a cell signalling molecule called epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), which has already been implicated in driving cancers, sends messages to the pico – or Lamellipodin proteins.
Cancers driven by EGFR include breast cancer, ovarian cancer and cancers of the head and neck.
Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said: “Finding out more about cell growth and division will ultimately help us understand how cancer develops and how we can more accurately target drugs to beat it.
“This important basic research shows we have succeeded in taking another critical step towards piecing together the jigsaw of how cancer develops.”
For media enquiries please contact the press team on 020 7061 8300 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.
*Ekaterina Lyulcheva et al. Drosophila Pico and its mammalian ortholog Lamellipodin activate SRF and promote cell proliferation. Developmental Cell, Monday 10 November.
University of Liverpool
The University of Liverpool is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive institutions in the UK. It attracts collaborative and contract research commissions from a wide range of national and international organisations valued at more than £108 million annually.
About Cancer Research UK
- Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK’s vision is to beat cancer.
- Cancer Research UK carries out world-class research to improve understanding of the disease and find out how to prevent, diagnose and treat different kinds of cancer.
- Cancer Research UK ensures that its findings are used to improve the lives of all cancer patients.
- Cancer Research UK helps people to understand cancer, the progress that is being made and the choices each person can make.
- Cancer Research UK works in partnership with others to achieve the greatest impact in the global fight against cancer.
- For further information about Cancer Research UK’s work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020 7121 6699 or visit our homepage.