OHSU Cancer Institute Researchers Discover Key Gene Involvement in Cancer Development

04/16/08  Portland, Ore.

Researchers find how a gene that is suppressed in many cancers may play a role in tumor development and resistance of cancer cells to therapy.

Oregon Health & Science University researchers have identified a gene that is necessary in eliminating cancer cells.  
“This finding is important because expression of this gene is frequently suppressed in many cancers, such as lymphoma and breast cancers,” said Charles Lopez, M.D., Ph.D., OHSU Cancer Institute (hematology/medical oncology), OHSU School of Medicine.

The research will be presented at a minisymposium on Wednesday April 16 at 10:30 a.m. at the annual American Association of Cancer Research meeting in San Diego, Calif.  The key protein, called ASPP2, works by activating biologic pathways that tell cancer cells to die. This protein is proving that it protects cells from one of the steps on the path to cancer. Researchers made this discovery by genetically engineering mice that have a predisposition to cancer because they are lacking one of the genes encoding ASPP2.

“This research helps us understand the basics of why cancer cells grow and what kills them so that one day we can develop better therapies and better cancer care for patients,” Lopez said. The research is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute.

Other researchers include: Kerstin Kampa, M.D., University of Tubingen (hematology/medical oncology, Tubingen, Germany(formerly with the OHSU Cancer Institute); Jared Acoba, M.D., (now at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center); Dexi Chen, M.D., Ph.D.;Hun-Joo Lee, M.S.; Kelly Beemer, M.S.; Joel Gay; Zhiyi Zhu, M.S.; Emerson Padiernos; Christopher Corless, M.D., Ph.D.; and William H. Fleming, M.D., Ph.D. all OHSU Cancer Institute  (hematology/medical oncology), OHSU School of Medicine.

OHSU Cancer Institute Director Brian J. Druker, M.D., will be giving one of the plenary sessions at this year’s American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting on Sunday, April 13 in San Diego, Calif., titled, “Accelerating the Pace of Cancer Drug Development: Target Identification and Clinical Trials.”

About the OHSU Cancer Institute
The OHSU Cancer Institute is the only National Cancer Institute-designated center between Sacramento and Seattle. It comprises some 200 clinical researchers, basic scientists and population scientists who work together to translate scientific discoveries into longer and better lives for Oregon's cancer patients. In the lab, basic scientists examine cancer cells and normal cells to uncover molecular abnormalities that cause the disease. This basic science informs more than 300 clinical trials conducted at the OHSU Cancer Institute.

About OHSU
Oregon Health & Science University is the state’s only health and research university, and Oregon’s only academic health center. OHSU is Portland's largest employer and the fourth largest in Oregon (excluding government), with 12,400 employees. OHSU's size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support activities not found anywhere else in the state. It serves patients from every corner of the state, and is a conduit for learning for more than 3,400 students and trainees. OHSU is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to every county in the state.