Scientists isolate 64 protein ’suspects’ in cancer

October 3rd, 2008 - 2:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Oct 3 (IANS) Scientists have identified 64 proteins believed to be linked with well-known cancer kingpin urokinase plasminogen activator receptor or uPAR. Mark Baker, professor at Australian Proteome Analysis Facility at Macquarie University, said his team’s recent findings help take researchers one step closer to understanding the chain of events in cells that leads to ovarian and colon cancer cells, transforming from the benign type to the malignant form.

“Researchers have known for a while that uPAR, which helps cells migrate through the body, is heavily involved in a range of cancers because it regularly turns up in large numbers on the outside of many types of malignant tumours,” Baker says.

“From the 20,300 or so proteins known to occur naturally in the human body, my colleagues have now been able to isolate about 50 that uPAR ‘hangs around with’ in or near the cell membrane when a colon cancer cell is malignant, and which it potentially recruits in order to help change the normal law-abiding behaviour of healthy cells.”

The proteins were identified using mass spectrometry because their cellular expression levels changed significantly (either up or down) when cell-surface uPAR was only suppressed by 40 percent, according to a release of Macquarie University. The findings were published in Proteome Research.

Not surprisingly, many of those suspect proteins have already been implicated by other researchers worldwide as being involved the regulation of tumour progression.

By mapping the sites of interaction between uPAR and other cell-surface proteins, and then using these sites as targets for new drugs that can stop the communication from the kingpin proteins, Macquarie scientists hope to one day be able to control the spread of some types of malignant cancer.

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