VCU Massey Cancer CenterWhether it is combating a disease or accelerating it, genes may play a significant role in that area. Pertaining to the topic, Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center and VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine researchers claim to have detected a gene that could perform an essential function in two processes that seems to be indispensable for tumor development, growth and progression to metastasis.

The researchers allege that the finding could result in an effectual therapy to aim and restrain the expression of this gene, thus ensuing in inhibition of cancer growth.

The research team has apparently illustrated that astrocyte elevated gene-1, AEG-1, a cancer promoting gene, appears to be caught up in both oncogenic transformations, which seems to be the turning of a normal cell to a cancer cell, and angiogenesis, which is supposedly the development of new blood cells. Oncogenic transformation and angiogenesis are said to be vital for tumor development, growth and progression to metastasis. This was as per Paul B. Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics, director of the VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine in the VCU School of Medicine, and program leader of Cancer Molecular Genetics at the Massey Cancer Center.

The researchers utilizing a sequence of molecular researches accounted that the elevated expression of AEG-1 is believed to be occupied in converting normal cells into cancer cells. As per Fisher, when AEG-1 was expressed in standard immortal rat embryo fibroblast cells it supposedly turned these cells into distorted cells that apparently provoked swiftly developing aggressive cancers when inserted into animals. AEG-1 expressing cells claimed to have exhibited better expression of genes adjusting blood vessel formation, thus adding to tumorigenicity. The team apparently further described the pathways in target cells that seem to be generated by AEG-1 and mediate its oncogenic and angiogenic inducing properties.

Fisher, who is the first incumbent of the Thelma Newmeyer Corman Endowed Chair in Cancer Research with the VCU Massey Cancer Center, commented, “Our goal is to understand the functions of a novel gene AEG-1 that plays an essential role in tumor progression, with potential to develop effective therapeutic approaches for multiple cancers through targeted inhibition of this novel molecule or its downstream regulated processes. We believe it will pave the way for ameliorating the sufferings of scores of cancer patients by uncovering new and effective avenues for treatment.”

Fisher explained, “Cancer development and progression are multi-factor and multi-step processes that occur in a temporal manner. As mentioned above AEG-1 clearly has multiple roles in various steps of tumor progression, including tumor cell growth, insensitivity to growth-inhibitory signals, including chemotherapeutic agents, invasion, angiogenesis and metastasis.”

He mentioned that in addition AEG-1 has been known to have oncogenic roles in various cancers including glioma, neuroblastoma, liver cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, and esophageal squamous cell carcinoma. These important correlations make this gene an intriguing molecule to study with potential to serve as a direct target for cancer therapy.

The research was published in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.