The gene and its protein, both called RBM3, are vital for normal cell division. In tumours, however, low oxygen levels cause the amount of this protein to go up dramatically. This causes cancer cells to divide uncontrollably, leading to increased tumour formation.
Powerful new technology was used to genetically “silence” the protein and reduce the level of RBM3 in cancer cells. The approach stopped the tumour from growing and led to cell death. This new technique has now been tested successfully in several types of cancer models such as breast, pancreas, colon, lung, ovarian and prostate.
Most cancers are thought to come from mutations in genes, but this this discovery shows for the first time that too much of the RBM3 protein can cause normal cells to turn into cancer cells.
The RBM3 protein was found in every stage of many cancers and the amount of protein increased as the cancer grew. The protein helped the cancer grow faster, avoid cell death (apoptosis) and was also part of the process that formed new blood vessels to feed the tumour, a process known as angiogenesis. Angiogenesis is essential for tumour growth and this new data suggests that targeting RBM3 may be a useful tool against cancer, as shown in the diagram.
It’s one thing to demonstrate success in the lab though – the proof of the pudding is what happens in real life. The next step is, therefore, designing suitable agents to inhibit the activity of RBM3 and clinical trials may begin within 5 years. Watch this space!
Source: University of Okhlahoma