Originally published on Cornerstone, the CHOP Research Blog.
I composed this original article based on an interview with the investigator.
A study from researchers at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia may add new lines to the textbook description of how cancer cells divide uncontrollably and develop into tumors. Their study, published in Nature Communications, identifies and describes an epigenetic mechanism in cancer cells that amplifies the expression of many genes and could be a central hub in cancer cell growth. Unlike most molecular cancer discoveries that advance knowledge of the disease by dividing it into narrower subtypes, this finding could directly apply to multiple cancer types.
“We know the signaling pathway known as the Rb pathway is altered in pretty much every single tumor that you can find in clinical settings,” said Patrick Viatour, PharmD, PhD, the study’s senior author, an investigator at CHOP and assistant professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Viatour’s research focuses on a family of proteins in the Rb pathway, called E2f transcription factors, that are an important part of the process of cell division — the cell cycle of reproduction that is carefully controlled in healthy cells but proceeds out of control when cancer cells proliferate. Transcription factors, including the E2f family of proteins, bind to specific target regions of DNA and help to either activate or deactivate expression of certain genes.
As a result of Rb pathway alteration, E2f factors are steadily turned on in cancer. In the study primarily using a mouse model of liver cancer, Dr. Viatour and his team found that E2f1 progressively accumulates as cancer progresses.