Established in 2020 Thursday, January 28, 2021

NUS researchers target 'undercover' gene that helps cancer cells proliferate
The CSI Singapore team found that depriving cancer cells of an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase may be a possible way to treat the disease. Image courtesy: National University of Singapore.

SINGAPORE.- For decades, scientists and doctors have been searching for a cure for cancer. Now, researchers from the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore (CSI Singapore) at NUS have taken a significant step forward with a new concept that could ultimately result in more effective treatments.

Research has so far focused on identifying and targeting the genes that directly cause cancer called “driver genes”. However, non-driver genes can also enlist other genes to assist them in helping cancer cells proliferate. These little-known additional genes are named “onco-requisite factors” by the research team led by Associate Professor Takaomi Sanda from CSI Singapore. The researchers demonstrate, with a leukaemia case study, why it is important to understand these genes.

In leukaemia and other cancers, there is a gene that does not directly cause the cancer but is abnormally active in cancer cells. It produces an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase.

Aldehyde dehydrogenase enlists other enzymes to turbo-charge the cancer cells with energy for growth and proliferation. But crucially, it also helps reduce the wear and tear on these turbo-charged cells by removing toxic by-products of energy production. Otherwise, the cancer cells would end up killing themselves.

While it may be possible to treat cancer by depriving the cells of aldehyde dehydrogenase, more research is needed.

“Cancer is not a disease of one instrument – it is an orchestra. The performance depends not just on the soloist, but on every single instrument involved. This broadens our understanding of cancer and possible ways to disrupt its machinery,” explained Assoc Prof Sanda, who is also from the NUS Department of Medicine.

The NUS researchers are now examining which stage of cancer involves aldehyde dehydrogenase, as that would determine whether it can be utilised to prevent cancer or to kill the already formed cancer cells.

Ms Zhang Chujing, an NUS doctoral student who worked on the project with Assoc Prof Sanda, hopes other researchers will pick up on their idea of onco-requisite factors. “This concept invites us to focus on the roles of other genes, which are not sitting in the driver seat of cancer formation, but may hold equal power in terms of cancer treatment,” she said.

The paper on this work was first published in the journal Haematologica earlier this year and was selected as one of the late-breaking abstracts at the prestigious Annual American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) meeting. In addition, the NUS team presented the findings at the Frontiers in Cancer Science conference on 4 November 2020.

Frontiers in Cancer Science is an annual event that brings distinguished cancer researchers with complementary knowledge and expertise from across the globe together for the exchange of ideas and information. This year’s conference, which was held online from 2 to 6 November 2020, was attended by over 1,200 participants from over 40 countries.

Today's News

November 22, 2020

NUS researchers target 'undercover' gene that helps cancer cells proliferate

Researchers develop a new test to better assess environmental impact of substances

European Commission approves Supemtek for the prevention of influenza in adults aged 18 years and older

Identifying the structure and function of a brain hub

Arthritis drug effective in treating sickest COVID-19 patients

FDA grants priority review for avalglucosidase alfa, a potential new therapy for Pompe disease

Ancient crocodiles' family tree reveals unexpected twist and turns

A neural network learns when it should not be trusted

Alternative gene control mechanism based on organization of DNA within nucleus

A pressure sensor at your fingertips

Rilzabrutinib granted FDA Fast Track Designation for treatment of immune thrombocytopenia

Satellite to track rising seas as climate warms

World's smallest atom-memory unit created

Versatile building blocks make structures with surprising mechanical properties

Dieting and weight worries on rise among teens


Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the ResearchNews newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful