Basic Science News
In a study partly funded by the National Institutes of Health published late last year by the Thoracic Oncology Laboratory of the University of California, San Francisco’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, a group of researchers reported on a very interesting discovery. Hung, et al., wrote in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine (Cul4A is an oncogene in malignant pleural mesothelioma, J Cell Mol Med 2009, Vol. XX, No. XX, p. 1-9) that Cul4A is an oncogene found in malignant pleural mesothelioma, which could point the way toward a potential therapeutic approach to treating mesothelioma.
Cul4A is a very specific type of cellular protein and plays an important role in the life cycle of cells of various kinds. This is the first report relating to its role in mesothelioma. Earlier reports showed that the gene responsible for this protein appeared to play a role in breast and liver cancer, so the authors looked for it in several different mesothelioma cell lines obtained from the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University, and also in surgical specimens obtained at the University of California, San Francisco. They found that this protein was increased, or “overexpressed,” in most mesothelioma cell lines and surgical specimens studied, and also determined that when the level of this protein was reduced, the growth rate of mesothelioma cells also slowed appreciably, and when they increased the levels of this protein, tumor growth increased. They concluded that the presence of this protein’s gene may play an important role in causing mesothelioma to develop, and thus may be a potentially interesting target for cancer therapy.
While it is way too early to make any predictions, this study is at least an important and interesting step on the road toward more effective ways to treat mesothelioma. One can only hope that the authors’ work will continue and they will have more to tell us in the years ahead.