Study Identifies Key Regulator of Pancreatic Cancer Cell Growth
May 7, 2014

Abnormalities in the structure of a protein known as RAS have been identified in more than 90% of all pancreatic cancers; however, it still remains unclear how these abnormalities promote cancer cell growth. Recent findings by Princess Margaret Cancer Centre Senior Scientist Dr. Robert Rottapel have shed light on this issue by providing a more complete picture of how the RAS pathway—and thus, cancer growth—is controlled.
 
Dr. Rottapel’s research revealed that a protein known as GEF-H1 (guanine nucleotide exchange factor H1) is required for RAS to function optimally. GEF-H1 was also found to be important for the growth and survival of pancreatic cancer cells expressing aberrant RAS proteins, while levels of GEF-H1 correlated with the rate of pancreatic cell growth.
 
Explains Dr. Rottapel, “these results identify a previously unknown way in which the cancer cells create biochemical support structures to ensure their survival and help themselves grow.  These results give us fresh insight into how we may target new players responsible for RAS-dependent cancer growth, which may one day be developed into new therapeutics for pancreatic cancers—a goal that is particularly important given the poor prognosis and aggressiveness of this type of cancer.”
 
The RhoGEF GEF-H1 Is Required for Oncogenic RAS Signaling via KSR-1. Cullis J, Meiri D, Sandi MJ, Radulovich N, Kent OA, Medrano M, Mokady D, Normand J, Larose J, Marcotte R, Marshall CB, Ikura M, Ketela T, Moffat J, Neel BG, Gingras AC, Tsao MS, Rottapel R. Cancer Cell. 2014 Feb 10. 
 
This work was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, a joint grant from the Terry Fox Research Institute, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.
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