Van Andel Research Institute findings provide more complete picture of kidney cancer

December 29, 2011

Grand Rapids, Mich. (December 29, 2011) - Two recent studies by Van Andel Research Institute scientists are providing a foundation for a more complete understanding of distinct kidney cancer subtypes, which could pave the way for better treatments.

In a study published in Cancer Cell led by Kyle Furge, Ph.D. and Aikseng Ooi, Ph.D., researchers provide a more complete understanding of the biology of Type 2 papillary renal cell carcinoma (PRCC2), an aggressive type of kidney cancer with no effective treatment, which lays the foundation for the development of effective treatment strategies.

Despite obvious morphological, genetic, and clinical differences, hereditary PRCC2 is thought to share similar pathway deregulation due to genetic mutation with its counterpart, clear cell renal cell carcinoma (CCRCC), a subtype that accounts for 75% of all kidney cancers and that, unlike PRCC2, responds favorably to drugs targeting vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a signal protein produced by cells that stimulate blood vessel formation.

The study, which included international collaboration with researchers from the National Cancer Centre Singapore, Génétique Oncologique EPFE-INSERM U753 and Faculté de Médecine Paris-Sud, Le Kremlin-Bicêtre and Institut de Cancérologie Gustave Roussy, Michigan State University, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Cleveland Clinic, Singapore General Hospital, and The Wistar Institute, identified deregulation of the KEAP1-NRF2 signaling pathway as a factor that distinguishes PRCC2 from CCRCC, but links both hereditary and sporadic PRCC2.

In another study published in Cancer Research, led by Yan Ding, Ph.D., and Bin Tean Teh, Ph.D. and carried out in collaboration with the National Cancer Centre Singapore, researchers integrated gene expression profiling and RNAi screening data to identify genes involved in CCRCC development and progression.

In recent years, several molecularly targeted therapies such as sunitinib, sorafenib, and pazopanib, which target the receptor tyrosine kinases of VEGF have been approved for CCRCC. Although these therapies significantly extend overall survival, nearly all patients with advanced CCRCC eventually succumb to the disease.

Gene set enrichment analysis indicated that cell-cycle-related genes, in particular PLK1, were associated with disease aggressiveness. Further, the association of PLK1 in both disease aggression and in vitro growth prompted researchers to examine the effects of a small-molecule inhibitor in CCRCC cell lines. Their findings highlight PLK1 as a promising potential therapeutic target for CCRCC.
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About Van Andel Institute

Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996, Van Andel Institute (VAI) is an independent research and educational organization based in Grand Rapids, Mich., dedicated to preserving, enhancing and expanding the frontiers of medical science, and to achieving excellence in education by probing fundamental issues of education and the learning process. VARI, the research arm of VAI, is dedicated to probing the genetic, cellular and molecular origins of cancer, Parkinson and other diseases and working to translate those findings into effective therapies. This is accomplished through the work of over 200 researchers in 18 on-site laboratories and in collaborative partnerships that span the globe. VARI is affiliated with the Translational Genomics Research Institute, (TGen), of Phoenix, Arizona.

Van Andel Research Institute

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