A gene that is known to suppress the growth and spread of many types of cancer has the opposite effect in some forms of colorectal cancer, says a study led by an Indian-origin scientist.
The research could lay the foundation for new colorectal cancer treatments.
“The gene known as Sprouty2 has previously been shown to protect against metastasis, or the spreading of cancer to other parts of the body, in breast, prostate and liver cancer,” said lead author of the study Sharad Khare, associate professor at University of Missouri School of Medicine in the US.
“However, our recent molecular studies found that this gene may actually help promote metastasis (spread of the disease to other organ) instead of suppressing it,” Khare noted.
For more than three years, Khare studied Sprouty2 in cancer cell models, mouse models and human biopsy samples.
Using different molecular methods, the researchers found that the gene functions differently in colorectal cancer than in other types of cancers.
Sprouty2 is known to block molecular circuits to prevent cancer cells from growing and spreading to other parts of the body.
However, the researchers found that in colorectal cancer, Sprouty2 may increase the ability of cancer cells to spread instead of suppressing it.
Khare believes this occurs when the gene is up-regulated, or supercharged.
“This finding is a very significant step in our understanding of metastasis in colorectal cancer, but it’s important to note that we believe this phenomenon may occur in only a subset of colorectal cancer patients,” Khare said.
The findings appeared in the journal Oncogene.