Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Scientists Discover a Molecular ‘Switch’ in Cancers of the Testis and Ovary

Published: Wednesday, August 07, 2013
Last Updated: Wednesday, August 07, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Research could lead to new drugs to turn ‘switch’ off.

Cambridge scientists have identified an ‘on/off’ switch in a type of cancer which typically occurs in the testes and ovaries called ‘malignant germ cell tumours’. The research was published today, 01 August, in the journal Cancer Research.

Malignant germ cell tumours arise in sperm- or egg-forming cells and usually occur in the reproductive organs, the testes or ovaries. The cancerous tumours are seen in patients of all ages, both in childhood and adulthood.

Although many patients do well after treatment, current chemotherapy treatments can have severe long-term side effects, including hearing loss and damage to the kidneys, lungs and bone marrow. For some patients, outcomes remain poor and testicular cancer continues to be a leading cause of death in young men.

The scientists found that all malignant germ cell tumours contain large amounts of a protein called LIN28. This results in too little of a family of tiny regulator molecules called let-7. In turn, low levels of let-7 cause too much of numerous cancer-promoting proteins in cells. Importantly, the cancer-promoting proteins include LIN28 itself, so there is a vicious cycle that acts as an ‘on’ switch to promote malignancy. The researchers have likened these changes to a ‘cascade effect’, extending down from the large amounts of LIN28 to affect many properties of the cancer cells.

The researchers also discovered that by reducing amounts of the protein LIN28, or by directly increasing amounts of let-7, it is possible to reverse the vicious cycle. Both ways reduced levels of the cancer-promoting proteins and inhibited cell growth. Because the level of LIN28 itself goes down, the effects are reinforced and act as an ‘off’ switch to reduce cancerous behaviour.

Nick Coleman, Professor of Molecular Pathology, Cambridge University said: “We need new ways of treating patients with malignant germ cell tumours to minimise the toxic effects of chemotherapy and to improve survival rates when tumours are resistant to treatment. Having identified this ‘on/off’ switch, it will now be important to identify new drugs that can be used to keep it in the ‘off’ position.”
Dr Matthew Murray, Academic Consultant in Paediatric Oncology, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge said: “The switch effect that we have discovered is present in all malignant germ cell tumours, whether they occur in males or females, young or old. Such a fundamental abnormality makes an excellent new target for treating these tumours.”

Susanne Owers, Director of Fundraising at Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust, which funded this research, said: “We are delighted to have supported this study, which has identified a key protein that triggers this type of cancer. ACT funds clinical academic researchers, like Dr Murray and Prof Coleman, because they are perfectly positioned to understand the clinical problems, working closely with patients, an insight not available to all researchers. Studies like this have the potential to make a tangible difference to patients, by identifying targets for the development of new drugs which may improve survival and have less side-effects compared with standard chemotherapy treatments. By funding this research, ACT – with the help of our supporters – can make a powerful contribution, enabling ground breaking research to be performed.”

Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 5,100+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Cellular Origin of Skin Cancer Identified
Scientists have identified ‘cell of origin’ in the most common form of skin cancer, and followed the process that leads to tumour growth.
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
New Consortium to Develop and Study Early Stage Drugs
An innovative new Consortium will act as a ‘match-making’ service between pharmaceutical companies and researchers in Cambridge with the aim of developing and studying precision medicines for some of the most globally devastating diseases.
Thursday, July 30, 2015
Four-Stranded ‘Quadruple Helix’ DNA Structure Proven to Exist in Human Cells
Discovery opens up possibilities for a new generation of targeted therapies for cancer.
Monday, January 21, 2013
Cambridge Scientist Appointed Inaugural Jubilee Professor of the Indian Academy of Sciences
The Indian Academy of Sciences has appointed Professor Ashok Venkitaraman from the University of Cambridge as its first Jubilee Professor in 2012.
Friday, June 29, 2012
Cambridge Botanist Awarded ‘America’s Nobel’ Prize for Medical Research
David Baulcombe, the Professor of Botany at Cambridge University, is being honored with the 2008 Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Scientific News
Integrated Omics Analysis
Studying multi-omics promises to give a more holistic picture of the organism and its place in its ecosystem, however despite the complexities involved those within the field are optimistic.
Unravelling the Role of Key Genes and DNA Methylation in Blood Cell Malignancies
Researchers from the University of Nebraska Medical Center have demonstrated the role of Dnmt3a in safeguarding normal haematopoiesis.
Agilent Presents Early Career Professor Award to Dr. Roeland Verhaak
JAX professor recognized for the development and implementation of workflows for the analysis of big-data from transcriptomics to next generation sequencing approaches.
New Mechanism of Plant RNA Degradation Identified
Researchers have identified a novel mechanism by which RNA is degraded.
Enlisting Insects to Protect Agriculture
New program aims for insect delivery of protective genes to modify mature plants within a single growing season.
Ovarian Cancer Insight
Study showed tumours release cytokines to attract macrophages, which secrete growth factors that in turn promote tumour growth.
Less Frequent Cervical Cancer Screening
HPV-vaccinated women may only need one screening every 5 to 10 years with screening starting later in life.
Questioning the Safety of Selenium to Combat Cancer
Research indicates the need for change in practice as selenium supplements cannot be recommended for preventing colorectal cancer.
Supercomputers Could Improve Cancer Diagnostics
Researchers push the boundaries of cancer research through high-performance computing to map the human immunone.
Transgenomic, Precipio Diagnostics Merger
Merger will creates a robust diagnostic platform focused on improving accuracy of cancer diagnoses.

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
5,100+ scientific videos