Cancer cells, in their rush to multiply, don’t heed these wise words at all. And they pay the price, as researchers Julien Champagne and Abhijeet Pataskar discovered under the guidance of Reuven Agami at the Netherlands Cancer Institute.
Publication: Julien Champagne, Abhijeet Pataskar et al., ‘Oncogene-dependent sloppiness in mRNA translation’, Molecular Cell September 24, 2021. DOI 10.1016/j.molcel.2021.09.004
In their previous research, his group teamed up with researchers from Israel to show that cancer cells continue to produce proteins despite a lack of nutrients, a process that is too risky for healthy cells. But in their hurry, they skip one important step in reading the RNA sequence – the blueprint explaining how to build proteins.
The result: sloppy, badly put together proteins that aren’t good for the organism, but that are easily detected by the immune system. New types of immunotherapy may be able to help the immune system better clean up these cancer cells, the researchers wondered.
In their new research (published on September 24 in Molecular Cell) Agami’s group found several surprising new characteristics of these sloppy cancer cells that could provide more ammo in the fight against these slobs.
First, they discovered that this sloppiness in cancer cells is caused by a gene mutation (the KRAS oncogene) which causes the occurrence of many cancer types. This means that this sloppiness is inherent to many cancer types. Drugs that could suppress the results of this DNA error in cells, will also prevent sloppiness.
Then, the researchers observed that the sloppy protein production returns once the cancer cell becomes resistant against the drug – something that happens irrevocably, and is one of the most frustrating problems in cancer treatment. That does mean that these cancer cells can no longer hide from the immune system: their sloppy work is too conspicuous.
Perhaps, Agami and his colleagues believe, new types of immunotherapy could take care of these tricky resistant cancer cells that often leave physicians and patients powerless. Especially if you can first deprive the cancer cells of nutrition by using other drugs to induce his hasty protein production.
But before we’re ready to develop these drugs, the authors say, we will need to conduct more fundamental research into additional mechanisms in the cell that result in this sloppiness of cancer cells.
This research was made possible financially by the Dutch Cancer Society, the European Research Council, NOW, and EMBO