Date Published: 28 April 2014
Possible new approach against ovarian cancer
Some of the cancer drugs developed in recent years have helped to increase patient survival rates by targeting a tumour's blood vessels, that is - the means by which nutrients and oxygen are supplied to the cancer cells. Unfortunately, despite such treatment, many cancer patients go on to develop resistance to this type of drug therapy. Then new blood vessels form, enabling the cancer to spread.
The research team involved in the recent studies considered the idea of blocking multiple routes by which tumour cells escape eradication and doing that all at the same time. That approach is now preferred over the use of drugs that target only one molecule - so, effectively causing only one, albeit a major, challenge to the cancer cells.
The scientists have been involved in developing new anticancer drugs that target ovarian tumour growth through the inhibition of the development of new tumour blood vessels. As part of this work they investigated the role of a particular set of molecules in controlling the activity of 'growth factors', which are proteins that are responsible for the stimulation of blood vessel growth. The studies of tumour tissue in the laboratory indicated that reducing certain chemicals in human ovarian cancer cell lines leads to a reduction in tumour growth. The scientists demonstrated that reducing the amounts of certain proteins that include the molecule heparan sulfate (HS), specifically HS 6-O-sulfotransferases 1 and 2, which are known as HS6ST-1 or HS6ST-2 (and known collectively as HS6STs) led to a reduction in tumour growth.
Research group leader Professor Gordon Jayson said:
" This knowledge gives us the opportunity to develop new anticancer drugs aimed against these growth factors. Targeting multiple factors and blocking several avenues that tumour cells use to escape eradication at the same time may be a better strategy than current drugs, which target only one molecule."
Dr Egle Avizienyte, who co-led the research, said:
" We know that a molecule called heparan sulphate (HS) is involved in blood vessel growth through facilitating interactions between the growth factors and their receptors that induce the development of new blood vessels. This is controlled by proteins known as HS6STs which regulate HS structure. By knocking down these proteins ? reducing their levels in cancer cells ? we were able to reduce activity of growth factors and stop ovarian cancer cells inducing the development of new blood vessels."
More about the application of this work: This cancer research work could result in significant benefit to many people. It is particularly concerned with improving treatment of ovarian cancer, a condition that currently affects approx. 7,000 women in the UK per year. Statistically, it is the deadliest of all gynaecological cancers. The prognosis is generally poor, due in part to most patients being diagnosed only when the disease is at an advanced stage. Currently, of the the 7,000 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the UK annually, more than 4,000 are not expected to survive. However, medical experts have suggested that if the women were diagnosed earlier, 90% of patients would be likely to survive.
University, England (UK)