Pitt Researchers Find Way To Block Cellular Growth Pathways And Inhibit Tumor Growth

March 31, 1998

At the annual American Association of Cancer Research meeting in New Orleans, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) researchers are presenting exciting evidence from animal models that blocking two cellular growth pathways causes tumor cells to die. "We are currently designing a clinical trial for patients with head and neck cancer based on the extremely encouraging results we have seen in these studies," said Jennifer Grandis, M.D., co-director of UPCI's Head and Neck Cancer Center and assistant professor of otolaryngology.

The researchers based their experimental therapy on TGF-" (transforming growth factor alpha) and EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor). TGF-" binds to EGFR, causing cell division. Both proteins are produced in abnormally high levels by tumor cells, suggesting that they play an important role in maintaining cancer growth. In their research, Dr. Grandis and her colleagues created genetic sequences that block the translation of the genes for TGF-" and EGFR into TGF-" and EGFR proteins. The investigators injected these agents into head and neck tumors growing in laboratory mice. This "antisense" therapy effectively inhibited tumor growth and resulted in cancer cell death, or apoptosis.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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