New Brunswick, N.J.– A traffic jam or missed deadline can often trigger stress. Experts say the chances of staying in control in such situations improve when the sources of stress are known and understood. It is much the same for cancer cells. By studying environmental factors surrounding these rogue cells, researchers are trying to identify key mechanisms which may halt cell growth and make current therapies work better. To discuss such exploration, scientists from around the globe, including investigators from The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ), are converging upon Vancouver, British Columbia, this week to discuss the latest discoveries in this area of cancer research. CINJ is a Center of Excellence of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
The Keystone Symposia are designed to provide scientific leaders an opportunity for debate and exchange on various research areas and applications. This year’s conference topics, “Metabolism and Cancer Progression” and “Cell Death Pathways: Apoptosis, Autophagy and Necrosis,” will focus on new approaches to cancer therapy. This includes exploration into how various stress factors within the environment of a cancer cell — such as deprivation of oxygen or nutrients — dictate whether the cell will self destruct, or retain its ability to spread disease. Co-organizing the event is Eileen P. White, PhD, associate director for basic science at CINJ, who is internationally recognized for her work in programmed cell death (apoptosis) and cell self-digestion (autophagy).
Recent breakthroughs in this latter area of study — described as a means of survival for a cancer cell through self-digestion — have been discovered in the laboratory of Dr. White and her colleagues. White will give a plenary oral presentation reporting that autophagy enables tumor cell survival to stress and to cancer therapy and how inhibiting autophagy impedes tumor growth and enhances therapy in preclinical models.
White and her team also will give a poster presentation on the inner workings of the autophagy regulator, known as the p62 protein. This protein is responsible for packaging damaged materials within a cell for delivery to the autophagy pathway and disposal, and the build up of p62 in tumor cells is a marker for autophagy inhibition. Since autophagy is a survival pathway for tumor cells, inhibiting autophagy monitored by p62 accumulation in cancer therapy as a measure of effectiveness is now being exploited for cancer treatment through clinical trial testing at CINJ. White and her team published these findings in the journal Cell last year.
White, who also is an adjunct professor of surgery at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and a professor of molecular biology and biochemistry at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, notes the event “presents a unique opportunity for collaboration, since scientists are able to interact with one another after hearing firsthand about the groundbreaking work their colleagues are engaged in across the globe.”
Other presentations from White and CINJ colleagues include discussion on the autophagy process and its impact on the ability for a protein known as keratin 8 to regulate its inner environment in breast tumors, as well as a poster on the impact the mTOR protein — a metabolic regulator — has on autophagy and kidney cancer. In total there are 13 presentations by CINJ members from the collaborating institutions of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Rutgers University, and Princeton University.
About The Cancer Institute of New Jersey
The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (www.cinj.org) is the state’s first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center dedicated to improving the detection, treatment and care of patients with cancer, and serving as an education resource for cancer prevention. CINJ’s physician-scientists engage in translational research, transforming their laboratory discoveries into clinical practice, quite literally bringing research to life. To make a tax-deductible gift to support CINJ, call 732-235-8614 or visit www.cinjfoundation.org. CINJ is a Center of Excellence of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
The CINJ Network is comprised of hospitals throughout the state and provides a mechanism to rapidly disseminate important discoveries into the community. Flagship Hospital: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. Major Clinical Research Affiliate Hospitals: Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown Memorial Hospital, Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Hospital, Cooper University Hospital and Jersey Shore University Medical Center. Affiliate Hospitals: Bayshore Community Hospital, CentraState Healthcare System, JFK Medical Center, Mountainside Hospital, Raritan Bay Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at Hamilton (CINJ at Hamilton), Saint Peter’s University Hospital, Somerset Medical Center, Southern Ocean County Hospital, The University Hospital/UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School*, and University Medical Center at Princeton. *Academic Affiliate
Contact: Michele Fisher