June 2, 2011

Gene Discovery to Help Kidney Cancer

(Ivanhoe Newswire) "“ The American Cancer Society estimates that over 58,000 people are living with kidney cancer in the U.S. It killed more than 13,000 people last year alone. Now, a new study uncovered a gene that may be the key to helping kidney cancer patients who don't respond to current therapies.

The current treatment for kidney cancer concentrates on blocking the formation of new blood vessels. While this strategy has been successful in the short term, it does not cure the patient and, more importantly, some patients don't experience any benefit from these drugs at all.

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University Knight Cancer Institute have discovered a gene called Src that may be the answer to helping these kidney cancer patients. The Src gene helps certain kidney cancers grow and its role could help deliver more effective treatments to patients.

"The next step is initiating clinical trials to test how these tumors respond to drugs already available and approved by the FDA," George Thomas, surgical pathologist at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, was quoted saying. "Our preclinical tests found that cancer cells that have increased Src activity were more sensitive to dasatinib (Sprycel), an FDA-approved drug that inhibits Src, both in tissue culture and when grown as tumors in mice," Thomas said.

The study's discovery of Src was found because of a sophisticated mass spectrometry based test, called a phospho-proteomics that analyzes activated proteins. However, Thomas says it was a surprise when the screening process suggested that the Src signaling network was activated, indicating that it was playing a role in the growth of cancer cells. "Src was certainly not on my radar," Thomas said.

The researchers then looked at the role of Src in tumor tissues from patients who previously had their kidney cancers removed.

"We found that patients with tumors expressing high levels of Src had worse survival rates than those patients whose tumors had weak expression of Src. This suggested to us that Src played a role in kidney cancer and that it was a therapeutic target worth exploring," Thomas said.

SOURCE: Science Translational Medicine, June 2011.