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

Overexpressed Protein A Culprit in Certain Thyroid Cancers

Published: Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Last Updated: Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Study by UT Southwestern researchers suggests a link between nervous system and cancer.

A specific protein once thought to exist only in the brain may play a crucial role in a deadly form of thyroid cancer, as well as other cancers, and provide a fresh target for researchers seeking ways to stop its progression, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers report today in Cancer Cell.

The scientists found that over-activation of a certain protein in hormone-secreting cells helps fuel medullary thyroid cancer cells in mice as well as in human cells, making the protein a potentially good target for therapies to inhibit the growth of these cancer cells. 

The discovery by the multidisciplinary team at UT Southwestern has implications for neuroendocrine cancers that arise in organs farther removed from the brain, including the lung and the pancreas.

Although rare, medullary thyroid cancer is often fatal.

“Once or twice a month, patients come to UT Southwestern, often complaining of soreness or a swollen throat,” says Dr. Fiemu Nwariaku, Professor of Surgery and a co-author on the paper. “When the diagnosis is a rare and incurable form of thyroid cancer called medullary thyroid carcinoma, it is always distressing for the patient – and for me – because we currently have no real therapies that truly extend life in these unfortunate cases.”

The only effective treatment is complete surgical removal of the thyroid, and frequently, tissues around the area of the tumor. Unfortunately, like cervical cancer, medullary thyroid cancer often is not diagnosed until it already has spread to other parts of the body.

More than 20 years ago, mutations in a gene were found to cause about 25 percent of these cancers. Genetic sequencing and screening has become an important diagnostic and prognostic tool for those families that share such mutations. But the causes for the remaining 75 percent of patients with this dangerous cancer have remained unknown and a source of frustration for endocrinologists and surgeons such as Dr. Nwariaku, also Associate Dean of Global Health.

While Dr. Nwariaku and his colleagues work to treat these patients, a laboratory in UT Southwestern’s Department of Psychiatry run by Dr. James Bibb, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology and Neurotherapeutics, was studying molecular mechanisms of brain disorders. In studying Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, Dr. Bibb and his colleagues made a transgenic mouse model of brain injury by overexpressing the Cdk5 protein that they thought was only in the brain.

As the team tracked the developing neurological problems, however, they noted that the mice became sick for reasons that were not at first apparent. The puzzle was solved when they discovered that all of the mice had developed the same thyroid cancer that Dr. Nwariaku treats.

Dr. Bibb and Dr. Nwariaku teamed up and launched a study of both human and mouse thyroid cancer cells. They discovered that Cdk5 was present in specific cells of the thyroid called C cells, and that the protein could escape normal cellular control and cause the cancer in both humans and mice.

Now, with the help of other UT Southwestern scientists, Dr. Bibb and Dr. Nwariaku, both members of the Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center, are making important progress in their efforts to develop new treatments for this and other more common forms of endocrine cancers. One promising example is the use of high-throughput screening for compounds that block the Cdk5 protein pathway, the researchers said.

“There are currently two FDA-approved drugs for treating neuroendocrine cancers, but neither of them blocks this specific pathway – one this study has shown to be a crucial vulnerability in the cancer, if appropriately targeted,” Dr. Bibb said. “We were surprised, but encouraged, by the finding because they link the human nervous system to disease processes that include the toughest of all foes, cancer.” 

Other researchers participating in the study included Dr. James Richardson, Professor of Pathology, Molecular Biology, and Plastic Surgery, who first recognized the disease in the mouse, and Dr. Xiankai Sun, Associate Professor of Radiology, who was able to track the development of the mouse tumors using advanced in vivo imaging. The work also includes an international collaboration of scientists and physicians who contributed insight and rare samples for the investigation. The research is being funded by the American Cancer Society.

"This research is ongoing, and we are now identifying precisely how Cdk5 causes the growth and spread of these forms of cancer with the goal of discovering new drugs, which we can test in our animal model,” Dr. Bibb said. “We want to work together to translate our laboratory bench-derived insight into treatments that help cancer patients. We also think we will learn more about brain injury by studying this cancer.”

Further Information
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 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,000+ 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

UT Southwestern Geneticist Receives Breakthrough Prize
Dr. Helen H. Hobbs receives prestigious Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.
Saturday, November 28, 2015
CRI Identifies Emergency Blood-formation Response
Researchers report that when tissue damage occurs, an emergency blood-formation system activates.
Friday, November 20, 2015
Researchers Identify an Enzyme as a Major Culprit of Autoimmune Diseases
Inhibition of cGAS may be an effective therapy for autoimmune diseases.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Researchers Develop Classification Model for Cancers Caused by KRAS
Most frequently mutated cancer gene help oncologists choose more effective cancer therapies.
Saturday, October 10, 2015
UT Southwestern Biochemist Receives NIH Early Independence Award
Dr. William Israelsen studies on hibernation may aid the fight against cancer.
Wednesday, October 07, 2015
UT Southwestern Geneticist to Receive Pearl Meister Greengard Prize
Dr. Helen Hobbs will receive the prize Nov. 17 in a ceremony at The Rockefeller University.
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
Physiologists Uncover a New Code at the Heart of Biology
New “code” - the speed limit of assembly - dictate the ultimate function of a given protein.
Thursday, September 24, 2015
CRI Scientists See Through Bones
Findings uncover new details about blood-forming stem cells.
Thursday, September 24, 2015
Researchers Assist in Landmark NIH Study
Study shows intensive blood pressure management may save lives.
Saturday, September 12, 2015
Regenerative Medicine Biologists Discover a Cellular Structure that Explains Fate of Stem Cells
The findings are presented in the journal Nature.
Thursday, July 02, 2015
Cell that Replenishes Heart Muscle Found by UT Southwestern Researchers
Researchers devise a new cell-tracing technique to detect cells that do replenish themselves.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Researchers Find Molecular Mechanisms within Fetal Lungs that Initiate Labor
Biochemists found that steroid receptor coactivators 1 and 2 (SRC-1 and SRC-2) proteins control genes.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Researchers Discover Molecule that Accelerates Tissue Regeneration
Newly discovered molecule, SW033291 accelerate cell recovery following bone marrow transplants.
Friday, June 12, 2015
Boosting Gut Bacteria Defense System May Lead to Better Treatments
Life-threatening bloodstream infections reversed by enhancing a specific immune defense response.
Tuesday, June 09, 2015
Immunity Enzyme Defends Against Tuberculosis Infection
Study shows that cGAS enzyme is essential for defense against the tuberculosis bacteria.
Wednesday, June 03, 2015
Scientific News
High Throughput Mass Spectrometry-Based Screening Assay Trends
Dr John Comley provides an insight into HT MS-based screening with a focus on future user requirements and preferences.
Promising Drug Combination for Advanced Prostate Cancer
A new drug combination may be effective in treating men with metastatic prostate cancer. Preliminary results of this new approach are encouraging and have led to an ongoing international study being conducted in 196 hospitals worldwide.
A Cellular Symphony Responsible for Autoimmune Disease
Broad Institute researchers have used a novel approach to increase our understanding of the immune system as a whole.
When it Comes to Breast Cancer, Common Pigeon is No Bird Brain
If pigeons went to medical school and specialized in pathology or radiology, they’d be pretty good at distinguishing digitized microscope slides and mammograms of normal vs. cancerous breast tissue, a new study has found.
Editing of LIMS Data Made Faster and More Efficient in Matrix Gemini
The latest version of the Matrix Gemini LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) from Autoscribe Informatics now provides faster and more efficient editing of LIMS data by eliminating the need for a second editing screen.
University of Edinburgh, Selcia Achieve Key Milestones in Drug Development Program
Scientists from the University of Edinburgh, working with Selcia, have successfully passed the 20-month milestone targets of a 30-month Wellcome Trust SDDi £2.5 million project to design novel treatments for sleeping sickness.
Red Clover Genome to Help Restore Sustainable Farming
The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) in collaboration with IBERS, has sequenced and assembled the DNA of red clover to help breeders improve the beneficial traits of this important forage crop.
How a Genetic Locus Protects Adult Blood-Forming Stem Cells
Mammalian imprinted Gtl2 protects adult hematopoietic stem cells by restricting metabolic activity in the cells' mitochondria.
Genetic Basis of Fatal Flu Side Effect Discovered
A group of people with fatal H1N1 flu died after their viral infections triggered a deadly hyperinflammatory disorder in susceptible individuals with gene mutations linked to the overactive immune response, according to a recent study.
New Tech Vastly Improves CRISPR/Cas9 Accuracy
A new CRISPR/Cas9 technology developed by scientists at UMass Medical School is precise enough to surgically edit DNA at nearly any genomic location, while avoiding potentially harmful off-target changes typically seen in standard CRISPR gene editing techniques.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
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
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos