COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Researchers have identified a possible new tumor-suppressor gene that plays a role in colon cancer and perhaps other cancers.
The finding promises to improve doctors' understanding of cancer, and it may one day provide a routine way to treat some cancer patients with a drug now used primarily by diabetics.
"These results give us a novel target for therapy, perhaps a way to predict who will respond to this therapy, and another molecular tool to understand the cancer process," said Charis Eng, associate professor of medicine and of human cancer genetics at Ohio State University.
The gene produces a protein, known as peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPAR-gamma or PPARg), that helps fat cells mature. The protein is also important for the metabolism of fats and sugars by cells.
The study was published in a recent issue of Molecular Cell.
Eng, who is director of the Clinical Cancer Genetics Program at the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, did this work as a follow-up to earlier work done on the PPAR-gamma gene's possible involvement in other diseases. Work by other investigators had shown that exposing colon-cancer cells in the test tube to the antidiabetes drug troglitazone caused many -- but not all-- of the tumor cells to look and behave more normally.