Pokemon Protein Implicated in Cancer Development
A central problem in combating cancer has been its molecular complexity; each cancer cell has numerous mutated genes contributing to the disease. However, a study, funded in part by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which appears in the January 20 Nature identifies a new cancer gene, named Pokemon, that may act as a master switch. Pokemon is an oncogene, a gene that can cause normal cells to become cancerous when mutated, but its role is unique in that it controls the activity of other oncogenes.
"Pokemon is a main switch in the molecular network that leads toward cancer," said senior author Dr. Pier Paolo Pandolfi of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). "If we could turn Pokemon off, it may block this circuitry and stall the malignant process."
Pokemon (POK Erythroid Myeloid Ontogenic factor) is part of the POK gene family that encodes proteins that turn off other genes. POK proteins are critical in embryonic development, cellular differentiation, and oncogenesis. Read more
Program Promotes Collaboration,
Rapid Generation of New Interventions
At the recent joint retreat of some key NCI advisory boards and the NCI intramural program retreat, two themes emerged that go hand-in-hand with several high-priority NCI initiatives. First was the strongly voiced sentiment that, to make the sort of progress against cancer that we all believe is possible, extensive collaboration is required among researchers of all disciplines and between academia and industry. Second was the imperative of getting drugs and other interventions to patients much more quickly than we currently do.
One NCI-led program that I believe holds tremendous promise and speaks to both topics is the Academic Public-Private Partnership Program (AP4). This program will establish AP4 centers at four to six U.S. academic research institutions and stimulate discovery- and development-related research. Through partnerships with nonprofit organizations and industry, the goal will be to rapidly generate novel, molecularly targeted cancer drugs and diagnostics for clinical trials for orphan cancer types.