Blood protein may hold key to stopping cancer progression

April 1st, 2009 - 4:24 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, April 1 (ANI): Scientists at Wake Forest University School of Medicine have reached a step closer to developing a new drug to inhibit tumour growth in cancer patients, and potentially help in the healing of wounds.

The researchers looked at angiogenesis - the body’s formation of new blood vessels from existing blood vessels - and how some blood proteins are involved in that process and affect blood vessel growth during a study.

They found that a protein called ferritin binds to and cripples the ability of another blood protein, called HKa, to shut down blood vessel growth.

The researcher point out that new blood vessels supply a steady stream of nutrients and oxygen, which are essential for tumour growth.

According to them, their study showed that the binding of the two proteins actually assists in new blood vessel formation by removing HKa’s influence, and therefore promotes tumour growth.

Based on their observations, the researchers hypothesised that if the binding of ferritin and Hka could somehow be prevented, it would help block the growth of tumours.

The finding also has possible implications for wound care, as the healing of wounds needs blood vessel growth.

Thus, according to the researchers, it is possible that by increasing the binding of ferritin to HKa, one could increase the rate at which a serious wound heals.

“It’s been known for a long time that levels of ferritin are increased in people with tumours, but it’s never been understood why that happens,” said Dr. Suzy V. Torti, the study’s lead investigator, an associate professor of biochemistry and an expert in iron biology at the School of Medicine.

“Ferritin appears to play an important role in blood vessel formation. Further, the interaction between ferritin and HKa may represent a new area of interest for possible drug development,” Torti added.

During the study, mice were injected with prostate cancer cells to determine how ferritin and HKa affected the formation of new blood vessels.

The mice injected with the cancer cells grew tumours.

However, upon mixing HKa with the tumour cells, the researchers found that the blood vessel formation was inhibited.

When the team added ferritin to the mixture of HKa and cancer cells, the blood vessel formation was restored, and it allowed the tumours to grow again.

“Blood vessels can either be helpful, for example in wound healing, or they can be harmful, for example by favouring tumour growth,” Torti said.

“Our new finding is that the interaction between ferritin and HKa can influence blood vessel formation. This finding could serve as the basis for strategies to either inhibit or stimulate blood vessels. This opens up a new realm of potential ways to treat tumors or other conditions that depend on new blood vessel formation,” Torti added.

The study has been reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (ANI)

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