Penn State Logo Esophageal cancer known to be averted by vitamin D appears as a difficult to treat ailment. Well, a new research asserts that the gene linked with cancer development can be a tumor suppressor gene in mice. A detailed insight of the genes involved in spreading cancer can reportedly aid in designing future therapies.

During the investigation, scientists created a mouse model to analyze the gene. These specially bred mice, called a knockout mouse may not have the p120 gene in their mouths and esophagi. Mice were then examined to note the presence of tumor in those areas. As a result, 70 percent of p120 knockout mice reported tumor formation. Mice with cancer supposedly had hyperactivated immune systems. Experts predict that absence of p120 leads to the production of immune cells that are pro-tumor generating and pro-cancer forming.

“For cancer to spread, some genes are activated, while others that would prevent cancer growth are prevented from doing their jobs. The cancer research community has thought that the gene p120, falls into the latter category. In this research, the loss of the p120 gene led to the development of cancer,” said Douglas Stairs, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology, who completed this research at University of Pennsylvania and is now at Penn State College of Medicine.

In cancer, the immune system can possibly help and also hurt the body. While some immune cells enable the body get rid of the cancer cells, others aid in tumor formation. When p120 is absent, tumor promotion through the immune system can be seemingly activated. So the mice presumably produced the bad types of immune cells. These ‘bad’ immune cells apparently migrate to the esophagus and improperly activated fibroblasts. Known as cells that create the support structure for tissues, fibroblasts appear most noticeably activated when tissue is damaged.

Improper activation of the fibroblasts can allegedly help the immune cells to stay active longer than normal. As each feed the other, a very permissive environment may be created for cancer development. Currently, researchers are carrying out investigations to lay hands on proteins that are used to communicate between tumor cells and other cells in the tumor microenvironment. Identifying these proteins can reportedly help develop a potential therapy.

The research is published in the journal Cancer Cell.