Ghent – Scientists from the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for
Biotechnology (VIB) have achieved a new breakthrough in cancer
research. The researchers, connected to Ghent University, have
discovered the function of an important mediator involved in
suppressing the development of tumors. Using a mouse model, they have
shown that absence of the mediator makes the mice susceptible to the
development of cancer. Through this research, the scientists are
contributing to a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms that
control tumor development.
Cell cycle: a vital, controlled process in our body
day, the billions of cells that compose our body are being replaced:
old cells die and new ones are produced. In the course of this process,
each cell goes through a well-organized series of phases. First of all,
the hereditary material, or DNA, in the cell nucleus is duplicated.
Next, the nucleus divides itself in half; and then the entire cell
divides, and the daughter cells grow into completely new cells. Because
it is crucial that this cell cycle runs perfectly, various control
points have been built in to enable the cell to control the stability
of the DNA. If the DNA becomes damaged, the cell cycle will come to a
A central role for the p53 protein in cancer
The p53 protein is responsible for stopping the cell cycle. Normally,
this happens at the end of the growth phase – but, if the DNA has been
damaged or if other problems arise, p53 can also trigger programmed
Because p53 can halt the further growth of cells, this protein
plays an essential role in suppressing the development of tumors and
blocking the onset of cancer. When cancer appears, the p53 protein is
deactivated – either through an alteration or mutation in the gene
itself, or through modified activity of the proteins that regulate p53
or that influence its activity.
Ptprv, a new target for p53
Research by Gilles
Doumont, Alain Martoriati and their colleagues from the team of
Jean-Christophe Marine has revealed that the protein Ptprv works with
p53. In certain circumstances, p53 directly influences the production
of Ptprv. In the case of DNA damage, Ptprv turns out to play a key role
in stopping the cell cycle and also contributes to blocking the
development of tumors. This important role for Ptprv has been
demonstrated using mouse models. Although the Ghent researchers have
elucidated its role in the development of cancer, the actual function
of Ptprv has not yet been discovered.
Does Ptprv open new perspectives for the treatment of cancer?
After exposure to carcinogens, mice that lack Ptprv develop cancer much
more readily than normal mice do. The findings of the Ghent researchers
show that Ptprv is an essential player in preventing and counteracting
cancer. Further research can reveal whether Ptprv can be a potential
point of action for the treatment of cancer.
Source : VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology). August 2005.