<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

Researchers have been investigating how to control the transcriptional activation of gene expression in cancer. Identifying how a transcription factor binds, or a pathway that activates where a gene can be turned off, has led to new drugs and new ways to treat cancer. In breast cancer, for example, many proteins are overexpressed. This can lead to increased phosphorylation of key transcription factors that increase transcription. One such example is the overexpression of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in a subset of breast cancers. The EGFR pathway activates many protein kinases that, in turn, activate many transcription factors that control genes involved in cell growth. New drugs that prevent the activation of EGFR have been developed and are used to treat these cancers.

Cancer and post-transcriptional control

Changes in the post-transcriptional control of a gene can also result in cancer. Recently, several groups of researchers have shown that specific cancers have altered expression of miRNAs. Because miRNAs bind to the 3' UTR of RNA molecules to degrade them, overexpression of these miRNAs could be detrimental to normal cellular activity. Too many miRNAs could dramatically decrease the RNA population leading to a decrease in protein expression. Several studies have demonstrated a change in the miRNA population in specific cancer types. It appears that the subset of miRNAs expressed in breast cancer cells is quite different from the subset expressed in lung cancer cells or even from normal breast cells. This suggests that alterations in miRNA activity can contribute to the growth of breast cancer cells. These types of studies also suggest that if some miRNAs are specifically expressed only in cancer cells, they could be potential drug targets. It would, therefore, be conceivable that new drugs that turn off miRNA expression in cancer could be an effective method to treat cancer.

Cancer and translational/post-translational control

There are many examples of how translational or post-translational modifications of proteins arise in cancer. Modifications are found in cancer cells from the increased translation of a protein to changes in protein phosphorylation to alternative splice variants of a protein. An example of how the expression of an alternative form of a protein can have dramatically different outcomes is seen in colon cancer cells. The c-Flip protein, a protein involved in mediating the cell death pathway, comes in two forms: long (c-FLIPL) and short (c-FLIPS). Both forms appear to be involved in initiating controlled cell death mechanisms in normal cells. However, in colon cancer cells, expression of the long form results in increased cell growth instead of cell death. Clearly, the expression of the wrong protein dramatically alters cell function and contributes to the development of cancer.

New drugs to combat cancer: targeted therapies

Scientists are using what is known about the regulation of gene expression in disease states, including cancer, to develop new ways to treat and prevent disease development. Many scientists are designing drugs on the basis of the gene expression patterns within individual tumors. This idea, that therapy and medicines can be tailored to an individual, has given rise to the field of personalized medicine. With an increased understanding of gene regulation and gene function, medicines can be designed to specifically target diseased cells without harming healthy cells. Some new medicines, called targeted therapies, have exploited the overexpression of a specific protein or the mutation of a gene to develop a new medication to treat disease. One such example is the use of anti-EGF receptor medications to treat the subset of breast cancer tumors that have very high levels of the EGF protein. Undoubtedly, more targeted therapies will be developed as scientists learn more about how gene expression changes can cause cancer.

Career connection

Clinical trial coordinator

A clinical trial coordinator is the person managing the proceedings of the clinical trial. This job includes coordinating patient schedules and appointments, maintaining detailed notes, building the database to track patients (especially for long-term follow-up studies), ensuring proper documentation has been acquired and accepted, and working with the nurses and doctors to facilitate the trial and publication of the results. A clinical trial coordinator may have a science background, like a nursing degree, or other certification. People who have worked in science labs or in clinical offices are also qualified to become a clinical trial coordinator. These jobs are generally in hospitals; however, some clinics and doctor’s offices also conduct clinical trials and may hire a coordinator.

Section summary

Cancer can be described as a disease of altered gene expression. Changes at every level of eukaryotic gene expression can be detected in some form of cancer at some point in time. In order to understand how changes to gene expression can cause cancer, it is critical to understand how each stage of gene regulation works in normal cells. By understanding the mechanisms of control in normal, non-diseased cells, it will be easier for scientists to understand what goes wrong in disease states including complex ones like cancer.

Questions & Answers

what is abiotic?
Williams Reply
state 2 abiotic factors that affect the rate of transpiration in plants?
Benenge
non living things
Chris
what is a cell
Esther Reply
what is contained in a smooth endoplasmic reticulum?
Bleyd Reply
sperm
Chris
cool
Jo
sorry i meant the structure within the smooth endoplasmic reticulum
Bleyd
what is cell made of
Jo Reply
what is sponge
Joseph Reply
what is a photometer
Abigail Reply
what is respiration
Alao Reply
Is the release of energy from food substance in a living organism
innocent
What is cytoplasm
Nitta Reply
Parasitic adaptation of tapeworm
Angela Reply
Describe osmoregulator or osmoconformers and how these tools allow animals to adapt to different environment.
Alick Reply
describe the secondary function of a leaf to a plant.
Twizera Reply
hi I'm asking a question about HIV infection, can HIV infection transmitted from Mother to unbron child? please help me I So confused.
Khushboy Reply
no it can't
Ahmad
yes it can but their is an injection that can be used to prevent it.
Gift
Ahmad how no?
Khushboy
Hi im new
innocent
no, unless when giving birth
Bright
YES
Kaole
it is can be transmitted but there is an injection that the mother is injected to prevent the disease
Nia
OK
Kaole
I agree with nia
peter
but I think HIV infection can be transmitted through blood so the unborn baby can be affected by HIV when a slight mistake occurred that what i think
Salim
yes, but there is a treatment however, using a retroviral therapy and injection to prevent the unborn child unscathed from the infection
Gula
what is the difference between primary and secondary active transport in detail? I didn't understand the steps in the textbook specifically
Fathima Reply
you are a doctor?
Mohammed
what is the meaning of connective tissue?
Mohammed Reply
what are the characteristics of living things
Owolo Reply
hi
Mohammed
what's the meaning of connective tissue?
Mohammed
Reproduction, adaptation, interaction, movement, growth, respiration, made of cells, responsive to environment (homeostasis), metabolic action (consumption of food converted into energy)
garret
Movement, reproduction, nutrition, irritability, growth, excretion, respiration, death, adaptation, competition
peter

Get the best Biology course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Biology' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask