CNIO researcher Ana Losada revises the role of cohesin in cancer

June 24, 2014

Massive sequencing of cancer genomes brings to light new genes every day that could be involved in the process of tumour formation. A good example of this is cohesin, a ring-shaped protein complex that embraces DNA to control cell division. Just a few months ago, and after several studies in the same direction, the sequencing of thousands of tumour samples identified the STAG2 gene--whose product forms part of cohesin--as one of the most frequently mutated genes in several types of cancer such as bladder cancer and melanoma.

The challenge now is to understand the link between cohesin and the development and evolution of cancer, an area where there is currently little data. Ana Losada, the head of the Chromosome Dynamics Group at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), an international expert in cohesin, summarises in Nature Reviews Cancer the latest research on the role of cohesin, its regulation, as well as its recently identified function as a potential driver or facilitator for tumours.

According to the article, cohesin "prevents premature separation of sister chromatids [those that contain the duplicated genetic material before cell division]"; this facilitates both the equal distribution of the genetic material between each daughter cell as well as DNA repair.

"For a few years now, several studies have added a new role for these complexes in the maintenance of the 3D structure of the genome and gene expression", says Losada. In this case, cohesin intervenes during the interphase of the cell cycle, when the cells are not dividing, the longest stage in the cell cycle of a cell's life.

This novel function, apart from the cell reproduction function, opens up a still-unknown field for the study of oncological diseases, which might help to understand the functional importance of cohesin mutations and their link to cancer.


The review makes a special mention of several bladder cancer studies, in which STAG2 mutations are the most frequent, representing: "up to 30% of mutations in the lower grade tumours and up to 10-15% in the most aggressive ones".

Amongst the studies mentioned is a recent article coordinated by Francisco X. Real and Núria Malats at the CNIO. The researchers described how STAG2 mutations did not correlate with alterations in the genetic make-up of tumour cells. From their observations, the researchers concluded that: "the gene takes part in bladder cancer via different mechanisms to the distribution [of genetic material]".

Losada points out that a better understanding of cohesin biology, as well as the generation of new animal and cell models deficient in these proteins could contribute to an improvement in the diagnosis and treatment of patients.

Since her discovery of cohesin in vertebrate organisms at the end of the 1990s, Losada has continued to focus her research into this area of knowledge using different experimental models, such as the African frog Xenopus laevis or the mouse.
Reference article:

Cohesin in cancer: chromosome segregation and beyond. Losada A. Nature Reviews Cancer (2014). doi: 10.1038/nrc3743

Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncológicas (CNIO)

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