Scientists have discovered a gene that drives colon cancer growth.
For the first time, researchers have discovered that inflammation in the environment surrounding a tumor can activate so-called “super-enhancers.”
A super-enhancer is a complex region of DNA that controls whether cancer cells are malignant—in this case, it regulates a gene called PDZK1IP1.
Researchers at the Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai in New York City didn’t know PDZK1IP1 was a cancer gene and found that deleting it led to slower tumor growth.
Their peer-reviewed results, published in the journal Nature Communications, suggest that PDZK1IP1 and its super-enhancers may be targets for anticancer therapy.
Ramon Parsons, director of the Cancer Institute and senior author of the study, said: “What this means for most colon cancer patients is that the inflammation that occurs in the tumor is promoting tumor growth.
“This underscores the importance of understanding what we can do to suppress colonic inflammation through prevention, or understanding the impact of diet on the colonic microenvironment.
“On the therapeutic side, we have genetic evidence that targeting this gene can actually suppress tumors.
“By understanding all these different components, we’ll have better tools to try and prevent this disease.”
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The researchers made their findings by studying living tumor tissue and surrounding healthy tissue in 15 colon cancer patients immediately after surgery.
Royce Zhou, one of the authors, said: “This cancer relies on surgery, and immunotherapy, which has revolutionized the treatment of advanced cancers, is only effective in a small proportion of colon cancer patients.
“That’s why new object recognition is sorely needed.”