Dr Janine Erler and colleagues earlier discovered the enzyme lysyl oxidase (LOX) plays a key role in the spread of breast cancer, and suspected it may also be involved in metastasis of other cancers.
In the latest study, published today in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Dr Erler’s team confirmed LOX was also important in bowel cancer growth and spread. They found cell growth increased in tumour cells with high levels of LOX, while low levels of LOX led to limited cell growth.
The team further showed that LOX was activating a molecule called SRC to promote cancer growth and spread. A drug called dasatinib is known to block SRC function and is already being used to treat leukaemia patients.
In laboratory tests, Dr Erler’s team found dasatinib reduced bowel cancer cell growth by inhibiting the effects of LOX.
“Our findings have revealed two potential new avenues for combating advanced bowel cancer – either with existing SRC inhibitor treatments or with drugs currently being developed to target LOX,” Dr Erler says.
“We are looking forward to future clinical trials to see whether these drugs could benefit patients with advanced bowel cancer, who currently have few treatment options.”
The research also showed that a test for levels of LOX expression could be used to recognise cancers whose SRC molecules are highly activated, therefore identifying patients most likely to benefit from treatment with dasatinib.
Professor Malcolm Dunlop of the MRC says: “Finding a way to prevent metastatic spread of tumours is crucial if we are to reduce the number of deaths from bowel cancer. The discovery that controlling the enzyme LOX could influence colorectal cancer cell growth is very encouraging. Supporting excellent research which answers fundamental questions about how cancer cells manifest in our body is vital if we are to see new and better treatments in the clinic.”
Dr Julie Sharp, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “Cancer spread causes most deaths from the disease and is a key challenge for our doctors and scientists. This research sheds light on how bowel cancer spreads and offers new avenues that scientists can exploit to try and treat people with advanced disease more effectively.”
Media Contact: Science Communications Manager Jane Bunce on 0207 153 5106 or after hours 077217 47900
Notes to editors: Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide, causing 529,000 deaths annually. Metastatic bowel cancer currently has few treatment options and a poor prognosis.
“The Role of Lysyl Oxidase in SRC-dependent Proliferation and Metastasis of Colorectal Cancer” publishes online Monday 31 January 2011 in Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR)
- The ICR is Europe’s leading cancer research centre
- The ICR has been ranked the UK’s top academic research centre, based on the results of the Higher Education Funding Council’s Research Assessment Exercise
- The ICR works closely with partner The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust to ensure patients immediately benefit from new research. Together the two organisations form the largest comprehensive cancer centre in Europe
- The ICR has charitable status and relies on voluntary income, spending 90 pence in every pound of total income directly on research
- As a college of the University of London, the ICR also provides postgraduate higher education of international distinction
- Over its 100-year history, the ICR’s achievements include identifying the potential link between smoking and lung cancer which was subsequently confirmed, discovering that DNA damage is the basic cause of cancer and isolating more cancer-related genes than any other organisation in the world
- The ICR is home to the world’s leading academic cancer drug development team. Several important anti-cancer drugs used worldwide were synthesised at the ICR and it has discovered an average of two preclinical candidates each year over the past five years
For more information visit www.icr.ac.uk
The Medical Research Council (MRC)
For almost 100 years the Medical Research Council has improved the health of people in the UK and around the world by supporting the highest quality science. The MRC invests in world-class scientists. It has produced 29 Nobel Prize winners and sustains a flourishing environment for internationally recognised research. The MRC focuses on making an impact and provides the financial muscle and scientific expertise behind medical breakthroughs, including one of the first antibiotics penicillin, the structure of DNA and the lethal link between smoking and cancer. Today MRC funded scientists tackle research into the major health challenges of the 21st century. www.mrc.ac.uk
Cancer Research UK Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research
- The charity’s groundbreaking work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives. This work is funded entirely by the public.
- Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival rates double in the last forty years.
- Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
- Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK’s vision is to beat cancer.
For further information about Cancer Research UK’s work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020 7121 6699 or visit www.cancerresearchuk.org