New research from Lawson uncovers important molecule in ovarian cancer

July 22, 2015

Scientists at Lawson Health Research Institute have uncovered an important new target for ovarian cancer therapy. Contrary to current research this new study found that LKB1, a molecule that regulates the metabolism of many adult cells, is an important molecule in the cancer's promotion and survival.

Thousands of women are living with ovarian cancer in Canada. It is estimated that this year, 2,800 Canadian women will be newly diagnosed with this disease. Even though ovarian cancer continues to be one of the most serious women's cancers, there is a real lack in reliable early detection tests and few treatment options. Lawson's Dr. Trevor Shepherd is one of a few scientists across Canada solely dedicated to finding a cure for ovarian cancer.

By the time of diagnosis the majority of women with ovarian cancer already have extensive spread of the disease which makes it difficult to treat by surgery or chemotherapy. According to Dr. Shepherd, what is even more concerning is the propensity of the disease to keep coming back until it is eventually resistant to therapy.

In order to find out how and why ovarian cancer cells grow and take on such lethal characteristics, Dr. Shepherd and his team grow the cancer cells in 3D structures, called "spheroids" - the same way the cancer cells grow in patients. Spheroids are sticky and can attach themselves to different organs, such as the uterus, liver, stomach or small intestine. Here they can sit dormant and unnoticed for months or years before growing and becoming resistant to chemotherapy.

Recently, Dr. Shepherds' lab discovered that the spheroids activate a 'stress signal', and the major molecule controlling this signal is called LKB1. "Previous studies stated that LKB1 was a tumour suppressor in ovarian cancer, meaning that tumour cells need to get rid of LKB1 to cause cancer," says Dr. Shepherd "but our work is in direct conflict with these studies, because we definitively show that ovarian cancer cells still have LKB1 and that this molecule allows ovarian cancer spheroids to change their metabolism, promote tumour cell survival and make them more resistant to chemotherapy."

By refuting these previous studies, Dr. Shepherd has uncovered a new target for future therapy. "There are currently no therapies or drugs that target LKB1," states Dr. Shepherd. "Based on these findings our lab is exploring several different strategies to understand and target LKB1 and its related molecules in ovarian cancer spheroids, and developing the essential pre-clinical models to see if this can be translated to ovarian cancer patients."
The study, "Intact LKB1 activity is required for survival of dormant cancer spheroids" is published in the June 5 online edition of Oncotarget.

Lawson Health Research Institute

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