Log in with your email address username.

×

Important notice

doctorportal Learning is on the move as we will be launching a new website very shortly. If you would like to sign up to dp Learning now to register for CPD learning or to use our CPD tracker, please email support@doctorportal.com.au so we can assist you. If you are already signed up to doctorportal Learning, your login will work in the new site so you can continue to enrol for learning, complete an online module, or access your CPD tracker report.

To access and/or sign up for other resources such as Jobs Board, Bookshop or InSight+, please go to www.mja.com.au, or click the relevant menu item and you will be redirected.

All other doctorportal services, such as Find A Doctor, are no longer available.

Mysteries of cancer-slowing gene revealed

- Featured Image

Researchers have uncovered the role played by a gene which suppresses the development of cancer.

Discovered by scientists at the University of Adelaide in South Australia, the findings on the activity of the gene WWOX open new opportunities for scientists to find treatments for cancer.

Professor Rob Richards, Head of Genetics and Evolution in the University’s School of Biological Sciences said his team worked on the knowledge that in certain types of cancer people with low levels of WWOX protein are more likely to develop cancer and that cancers with low levels of WWOX tend to be more aggressive and less responsive to treatment.

“So a higher level of WWOX activity is definitely a good thing to have but, until now, the role that WWOX plays in cancer suppression has been a mystery,” he said.

Professor Richards and his team of researchers, Dr Louise O’Keefe and PhD students Amanda Choo and Cheng Shoou Lee, studied the impact of lower levels of WWOX on cells using a genetic model ─ the small laboratory fly, Drosophila.

“Our research has shown that cancer cells with lower levels of WWOX had a competitive advantage over those cells with normal WWOX levels, and could outgrow them,” says Professor Richards. “This could lead to a more aggressive cancer and worse outcomes for cancer patients ─ poorer survival rates.”

Further research showed that the WWOX gene plays a role in the altered metabolism of cancer cells which are known to use glucose differently to normal cells. Cancer cells tend to use glucose to make more cell ‘building blocks’ than energy, and this is thought to help them to divide and grow.

“Another set of Drosophila experiments revealed that the WWOX gene helps keep the balance of glucose use in favour of producing energy rather than helping cancer cells multiply,” says Professor Richards.

“This difference in metabolism is a key part of how cancer cells have a competitive advantage over normal cells. Low WWOX levels will allow more glucose to be used for these cancer cell ‘building blocks’.”

The good news is that WWOX belongs to a family of proteins that have enzyme activity – this means WWOX activity can be altered by targeting the enzyme.

“We now have a good idea of what WWOX does in cancer cells and how it acts to help suppress cancer. And we have a potential target to be able to influence that activity to change the properties of cancer cells,” says Professor Richards.

The research has been supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council and The Cancer Council of Australia and published in the journal PLOS One.

This story is supplied by The Lead South Australia.

 

email