A novel approach to reverse the progression of healthy cells to malignant ones may offer a more effective way to eradicate colorectal cancer cells with far fewer side effects, according to a team of researchers based in South Korea.
Colorectal cancer, or cancer of the colon, is the third most common cancer in men and the second most common in women worldwide. South Korea has the second highest incident rate of colorectal cancer in the world, topped only by Hungary, according to the World Cancer Research Fund.
Their results were published as a featured cover article on January 2 in Molecular Cancer Research , a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
Led by Kwang-Hyun Cho, a professor and associate vice president of research at KAIST , the researchers used a computational framework to analyze healthy colon cells and colorectal cancer cells. They found that some master regulator proteins involved in cellular replication helped healthy colon cells mature, or differentiate into their specific cell type, and remain healthy. One particular protein, called SETDB1, suppressed the helpful proteins, forcing new cells to remain in a state of immaturity with the potential to become cancerous.
This suggests that differentiated cells have an inherent resistance mechanism against malignant transformation and indicates that cellular reprogramming is indispensable for malignancy. We speculated that malignant properties might be eradicated if the tissue-specific gene expression is reinstated -- if we repress SETDB1 and allow the colon cells to mature and differentiate as they would normally." Kwang-Hyun Cho, professor and associate vice president of research at KAIST
Using human-derived cells, Cho and his team targeted the tissue-specific gene expression programs identified in their computational analysis. These are the blueprints for the proteins that eventually help immature cells differentiate into tissue-specific cell types, such as colon cells. When a person has a genetic mutation, or has exposure to certain environmental factors, this process can go awry, leading to an overexpression of unhelpful proteins, such as SEDTB1. Related Stories
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