New alternate cell growth pathway could lead to better treatments for metastatic cancers

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Gene, mEAK-7,  discovered last year, seems to play a primary role in cancer metastasis. By comparing mEAK-7 expression both in normal cells as well as cancer cells, researchers discovered that the gene was highly visible in the cancer cells.  Moreover, they combined it with a large molecule and found that an alternative pathway become apparent and was used by cancer to grow and spread.

Although researchers comprehend how primary cancer cells grow, less is understood about metastasis, the deadly process by which cancers spread. A team led by Dr. Paul Krebsbach, dean of UCLA’s School of Dentistry and professor of periodontics, has found that mEAK-7, a gene they discovered last year, may play a key role in cancer metastasis, at least in lung cancers.

In addition, the team compared mEAK-7 expression levels in normal and cancer cells using tumor cell genetic datapoints from several databases as well as tissue samples from cancer patients.

“By focusing on non-small cell lung cancer, we found that mEAK-7, which is important for cell proliferation and migration, was highly expressed in metastatic non-small cell lung cancer,” said Dr. Joe Nguyen, first author and postdoctoral scholar at the National Cancer Institute. “We also discovered that mEAK-7 was expressed in primary cancer cells but not expressed in non-cancerous cells, which shows that the protein could be a key culprit in cancer metastasis.”

The research was published in the journal iScience.