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Penn study targeting downstream proteins in cancer-causing pathway shows promise in cell, animal model

  • Posted: November 14, 2012

The cancer-causing form of the gene Myc alters the metabolism of mitochondria, the cell’s powerhouse, making it dependent on the amino acid glutamine for survival. In fact, 40 percent of all “hard-to-treat” cancers have a mutation in the Myc gene. Accordingly, depriving cells of glutamine selectively induces programmed cell death in cells overexpressing mutant Myc. Using Myc-active neuroblastoma cancer cells, a team led by investigators from the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, identified the proteins PUMA, NOXA, and TRB3 as executors of the glutamine-starved cells. These three proteins represent a downstream target in the Myc pathway at which to aim drugs. Roughly 25 percent of all neuroblastoma cases are associated with Myc-active cells.

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NCI comprehensive cancer centers logoAmong the research institutions NCI funds across the United States, it currently designates 67 as Cancer Centers. Largely based in research universities, these facilities are home to many of the NCI-supported scientists who conduct a wide range of intense, laboratory research into cancer’s origins and development. The Cancer Centers Program also focuses on trans-disciplinary research, including population science and clinical research. The centers’ research results are often at the forefront of studies in the cancer field.