Cancer cell reversion may offer a new approach to colorectal cancer treatment

February 02, 2020

A novel approach to reverse the progression of healthy cells to malignant ones may offer a more effective way to eradicate colorectal cancer cells with far fewer side effects, according to a team of researchers based in South Korea.

Colorectal cancer, or cancer of the colon, is the third most common cancer in men and the second most common in women worldwide. South Korea has the second highest incident rate of colorectal cancer in the world, topped only by Hungary, according to the World Cancer Research Fund.

Their results were published as a featured cover article on January 2 in Molecular Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Led by Kwang-Hyun Cho, a professor and associate vice president of research at KAIST , the researchers used a computational framework to analyze healthy colon cells and colorectal cancer cells. They found that some master regulator proteins involved in cellular replication helped healthy colon cells mature, or differentiate into their specific cell type, and remain healthy. One particular protein, called SETDB1, suppressed the helpful proteins, forcing new cells to remain in a state of immaturity with the potential to become cancerous.

"This suggests that differentiated cells have an inherent resistance mechanism against malignant transformation and indicates that cellular reprogramming is indispensable for malignancy," said Cho. "We speculated that malignant properties might be eradicated if the tissue-specific gene expression is reinstated -- if we repress SETDB1 and allow the colon cells to mature and differentiate as they would normally."

Using human-derived cells, Cho and his team targeted the tissue-specific gene expression programs identified in their computational analysis. These are the blueprints for the proteins that eventually help immature cells differentiate into tissue-specific cell types, such as colon cells. When a person has a genetic mutation, or has exposure to certain environmental factors, this process can go awry, leading to an overexpression of unhelpful proteins, such as SEDTB1.

The researchers specifically reduced the amount of SEDTB1 in these tissue-specific gene expression programs, which allowed the cells to mature and fully differentiate into colon cells.

"Our experiment also shows that SETDB1 depletion combined with cytotoxic drugs might be potentially beneficial to anticancer treatment," Cho said. Cytotoxic drugs are often used for cancer treatment because the type of medicine contains chemicals that are toxic to cancer cells which can prevent them from replicating or growing. He noted that this combination could be more effective in treating cancer by transforming the cancer cell state into a less malignant or resistant state. He eventually pursues a cancer reversion therapy alone instead of conventional cytotoxic drug therapy since the cancer reversion therapy can provide a much less painful experience for patients with cancer who often have severe side effects from treatments intended to kill off cancerous cells, such as chemotherapy.

The researchers plan to continue studying how to return cancer cells to healthier states, with the ultimate goal of translating their work to therapeutic treatment for patients with colorectal cancer.

"I think our study of cancer reversion would eventually change the current medical practice of treating cancer toward the direction of keeping the patient's quality of life while minimizing the side effects of current anti-cancer therapies," Cho said.
This work was funded by KAIST and the National Research Foundation of Korea grants funded by the Korean government, the Ministry of Science and Information and Communication Technology.

Other authors include Soobeom Lee, Chae Young Hwang and Dongsan Kim, all of whom are affiliated with the Laboratory for Systems Biology and Bio-Inspired Engineering in the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering at KAIST; Chansu Lee and Sung Noh Hong, both with the Department of Medicine, and Seok-Hyung Kim of the Department of Pathology in the Samsung Medical Center at the Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine.


Professor Kwang-Hyun Cho
Department of Bio and Brain Engineering

-About KAIST

KAIST is the first and top science and technology university in Korea. KAIST was established in 1971 by the Korean government to educate scientists and engineers committed to industrialization and economic growth in Korea.

Since then, KAIST and its 64,739 graduates have been the gateway to advanced science and technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship. KAIST has emerged as one of the most innovative universities with more than 10,000 students enrolled in five colleges and seven schools including 1,039 international students from 90 countries.

On the precipice of semi-centennial anniversary in 2021, KAIST continues to strive to make the world better through the pursuit in education, research, entrepreneurship, and globalization.

The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to