Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Stem Cells, Cellular Therapy & Biobanking
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

UTSW Researchers Identify New Potential Target for Cancer Therapy

Published: Monday, April 22, 2013
Last Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Researchers have found that alternative splicing – a process that allows a single gene to code for multiple proteins – appears to be a new potential target for anti-telomerase cancer therapy.

The enzyme telomerase is overexpressed in almost all cancer cells, and previous research efforts have failed to identify good telomerase inhibitors. The study by Dr. Woodring Wright and UT Southwestern colleagues in the April 4 issue of Cell Reports identifies a new approach for inhibiting telomerase, which is an enzyme that drives uncontrolled division and replication of cancer cells.

Alternative splicing allows genetic information to be assembled in different ways and is almost always controlled by DNA sequences that are immediately adjacent to the parts of a gene that code for protein. “In the case of the telomerase gene, we found that these controlling regions are located very far from the protein coding regions and that they contain unusual DNA sequences,” said Dr. Wright, professor of cell biology and internal medicine. “Their unusual DNA structure suggests that humans regulate telomerase in a very different fashion that we may be able to exploit to develop inhibitors of the enzyme.”

Most of the splice variants that telomerase makes are inactive, but Dr. Wright’s team demonstrated that it was possible to shift the splicing to make even less active telomerase, potentially providing a new approach for cancer therapy.

Telomeres are specialized structures at the ends of each chromosome. As DNA replicates, telomeres shorten each time a cell divides. Telomerase in human cancer cells is 10 to 20 times more active than in normal body cells. The increase provides a selective growth advantage to many types of tumors. If telomerase activity was to be turned off, then telomeres in cancer cells would shorten like they do in normal body cells.

“The oft-used analogy is that telomeres are like the plastic ends of shoelaces that protect them from fraying,” Dr. Wright said. “Once the plastic becomes damaged and falls off, the shoelace can no longer be threaded effectively. The only solution at that point is to throw the shoelace away.”

In most tissues, telomerase turns off during development, after which telomeres shorten and limit the number of times a cell can divide, eventually losing their capping function similar to the shoelace tip falling off. This timing also functions as a tumor-protection mechanism, since the limited cellular lifespan prevents pre-malignant cells from accumulating the mutations they need to become cancerous.

Preclinical studies have shown that inhibiting telomerase causes tumor cells to lose immortality, re-initiate telomere shortening, and eventually die. In the event that a tumor has already thoroughly developed, it may be surgically removed, and following conventional chemotherapy, telomerase inhibition could prevent rare surviving cells from having enough divisions to cause a relapse.

Dr. Wright said the alternative splicing method also could be useful for regenerative medicine, because telomeres in our stem cells shorten with age and that eventually compromises their function. “Under the right circumstances, increasing or decreasing telomerase activity could profoundly affect our treatments for both cancer and aging,” he said.

The investigation was supported by the National Cancer Institute.

Other UT Southwestern researchers participating in the study are graduate student Sze “Mandy” Wong, who served as first author; research associate Ling Chen; medical student Radhika Kainthla; and Dr. Jerry Shay, professor of cell biology and a senior member of the Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center.

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 2,600+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,800+ 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

CRI Scientists See Through Bones
Findings uncover new details about blood-forming stem cells.
Thursday, September 24, 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
Rare Stem Cells in Testis that Hold Potential for Infertility Treatments Identified
Rare stem cells in testis that produce a biomarker protein called PAX7 help give rise to new sperm cells — and may hold a key to restoring fertility, research by scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center suggests.
Friday, September 05, 2014
Cancer Biologists Link Tumor Suppressor Gene to Stem Cells
The findings appear online in the journal eLife.
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Stem Cell Study Opens Door to Undiscovered World of Biology
Discovery published in Nature measures protein production.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Researchers Generate New Neurons in Brains, Spinal Cords of Mammals
Researchers created new nerve cells without the need of stem cell transplants.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Scientists Find that Estrogen Promotes Blood-Forming Stem Cell Function
Research could provide potential opportunities for improved treatment of blood cancers and enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
Monday, January 27, 2014
Bone-marrow Environment Helps Fight Infection
Scientists identify bone-marrow environment that leads to production of infection-fighting T and B cells.
Monday, September 16, 2013
Gene Found that Regenerates Heart Tissue
UT Southwestern researchers identify gene that regenerates heart tissue – critical finding for heart failure prevention.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
UT Southwestern Researchers Identify Mechanism that Maintains Stem Cells
Immune-system receptor maintains stemness of normal adult stem cells and helps leukemia cells growth.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Human Melanomas in Mice Predict Skin Cancer
Spread of human melanoma cells in mice correlates with clinical outcomes in patients, UTSW investigators find.
Thursday, November 08, 2012
Genetic Manipulation Boosts Growth of Brain Cells Linked to Learning
Genetic manipulation enhances effects of antidepressants, UT Southwestern researchers report.
Friday, March 09, 2012
Blood-forming Stem Cells' Growth Identified in First Breakthrough from New Institute
Endothelial and perivascular cells are responsible for nurturing haematopoietic stem cells.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Researchers at UT Southwestern Find Way to Help Donor Adult Blood Stem Cells Overcome Transplant Rejection
The study show that adult blood stem cells can be regulated to overcome an immune response that leads to transplant rejection.
Monday, August 08, 2011
Scientific News
Snapshot Turns T Cell Immunology on its Head
New research may have implications for 1 diabetes sufferers.
Developing a Gel that Mimics Human Breast for Cancer Research
Scientists at the Universities of Manchester and Nottingham have been funded to develop a gel that will match many of the biological structures of human breast tissue, to advance cancer research and reduce animal testing.
Lung Repair and Regeneration Gene Discovered
New role for hedgehog gene offers better understanding of lung disease.
Restoring Vision with Stem Cells
Age-related macular degeneration (AMRD) could be treated by transplanting photoreceptors produced by the directed differentiation of stem cells, thanks to findings published today by Professor Gilbert Bernier of the University of Montreal and its affiliated Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital.
The Age of Humans Controlling Microbes
Engineered bacteria could soon be used to detect environmental toxins, treat diseases, and sustainably produce chemicals and fuels.
Gene Expression: A Snapshot of Stem Cell Development
New genes found that regulate development of stem cells.
Tissue-Engineered Colon from Human Cells
A study by scientists at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles has shown that tissue-engineered colon derived from human cells is able to develop the many specialized nerves required for function, mimicking the neuronal population found in native colon.
Tension Helps Heart Cells Develop Normally in the Lab
Stanford engineers have uncovered the important role tension plays in growing heart cells out of the body.
Urine Excretion From Stem Cell-Derived Kidneys
Researchers report a strategy for enabling urine excretion from kidneys grown from stem cells.
Stem Cell Research Hints at Evolution of Human Brain
Researchers at UC San Francisco have succeeded in mapping the genetic signature of a unique group of stem cells in the human brain that seem to generate most of the neurons in our massive cerebral cortex.
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
2,600+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos