Divide and conquer: Genes decide who wins in the body's battle against cancer

July 13, 2010

Researchers funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) have discovered for the first time that two proteins called Mahjong and Lgl could be star players in helping to identify how the body's own cells fight back against cancer cells. This discovery, publishing today in the online, open-access journal PLoS Biology, could lead to future treatments to make our healthy cells better-equipped to attack cancer cells, an entirely new concept for cancer research.

The team, who undertook the research at the MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology and Cell Biology Unit at University College London (UCL), have proven that normal cells and cancerous cells compete in a game of 'do or die'. If non-cancerous cells gain the advantage and entirely surround cancer cells, the cancer cells will die. If, however, the cancerous cells manage to break free, they will continue to divide and grow undisturbed. The study shows that the Lgl and Mahjong proteins play a key role in the cells' competitiveness, influencing the outcome over which cells will die. This kind of cell competition had previously been shown to occur in flies, however this is the first time it has been seen in mammals.

This discovery could potentially lead to new kinds of treatments for carcinomas, tumours which make up more than 80 per cent of all cancers. Carcinomas originate from the epithelial cells that make up tissues such as our lungs, glands and digestive system.

Dr Yasuyuki Fujita, group leader at MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology and Cell Biology Unit at UCL is thrilled by the results: "This is the first time that we have seen cancer cells being killed simply by being surrounded by healthy cells. If we can build on this knowledge and improve our understanding of how this happens, in the future we may be able to find a way to enhance this ability and develop a totally new way of preventing and treating cancer."

Basic science is critical to understanding the human body's natural resilience to diseases such as cancer and to guiding the development of future treatments. The MRC has a dedicated record of investment in science that links laboratory-based knowledge to clinical investigation.
-end-
Funding: YF is supported by Medical Research Council funding to the Cell Biology Unit. AT is supported by a Florida/Puerto Rico Affiliate Postdoctoral Fellowship from the American Heart Association. WMD is supported by a Scientist Development grant from the American Heart Association, Florida/Puerto Rico affiliate, and National Institutes of Health grant 1R01GM072562. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing interests statement: The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Citation: Tamori Y, Bialucha CU, Tian A-G, Kajita M, Huang Y-C, et al. (2010) Involvement of Lgl and Mahjong/VprBP in Cell Competition. PLoS Biol 8(7): e1000422. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000422

PLEASE ADD THE LINK TO THE PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN ONLINE VERSIONS OF YOUR REPORT: http://biology.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pbio.1000422

PRESS ONLY PREVIEW OF THE ARTICLE: http://www.plos.org/press/plbi-08-07-Fujita.pdf

RELATED SYNOPSIS: http://www.plos.org/press/plbi-08-07-FujitaSynopsis.pdf

CONTACT:
Cathy Beveridge
MRC Senior Press Officer
Tel: 020 7670 5138
catherine.beveridge@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk
Medical Research Council
20 Park Crescent
London, W1B 1AL

PLOS

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
Brightsurf.com 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 Amazon.com.