A University of Texas Dallas researcher named Dr. Jung-Whan (Jay) Kim and his team have discovered a connection between two proteins hitherto thought to be unrelated and cancer growth, according to Eureka Alert. The proteins in question are NQO1, which helps to protect the body from cancer-causing agents such as cigarette smoke and environmental toxins, and HIF-1A which protects cells when oxygen levels become low. Kim and his researchers noticed that levels of both proteins are elevated in certain kinds of cancer during mouse experiments.
Ordinarily, HIF-1A will increase when oxygen levels drop and then degrade when oxygen is restored. But when it comes to cancer, HIF-1A binds with NQO1 and stabilizes it. HIF-1A causes blood vessels to connect to the tumor, feeding it more oxygen, causing it to grow.
To confirm the relationship, Kim and his team eliminated NQO1 in tumors that they then injected in mice. The tumor levels in these mice dropped compared to unmodified tumors that continued to grow in a control group of mice.
The findings of the research, published in the Journal Science, have some profound implications for the treatment of cancer. If a way can be found to inhibit the presence of HIF-1A in cancer tumors, health care professionals will have a new tool to fight the disease. Of course, some years of research lie ahead before a protein inhibiter can be developed that could attack cancers in human patients. Then a series of human trials must take place before a new therapy can be tested in a clinical setting.
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