In the absence of caspase-8 protein, the cell is significantly more capable of escaping from the primary tumor and spreading to other sites in the body, the researchers said. The investigators also showed in laboratory studies that restoring the expression of the caspase-8 gene suppressed neuroblastoma metastases.
The study's findings are significant because they suggest that novel treatments that restore the tumor-suppression role of the caspase-8 gene might prevent the spread of neuroblastoma and improve patient outcome, according to Jill M. Lahti, PhD, an associate member of the Department of Genetics and Tumor Cell Biology. Lahti and David Cheresh, Ph.D., (UCSD) are senior authors of a report on these findings that appears in the January 5 issue of the journal Nature.
Caspase-8 triggers apoptosis by binding to molecules called integrins that project from the surface of cells, including neuroblastoma cells. Normally, integrin molecules anchor the cell to the extracellular matrix--the material outside the cell consisting of gel and fibers that support and provide structure to tissues. When cells become dislodged from the extracellular matrix, as happens during metastasis, the unbound integrin molecules are free to bind with caspase-8, Lahti said. The binding of caspase-8 to integrin then triggers integrin-mediated death (IMD), a form of apoptosis.
"Cells aren't usually supposed to break away from their location in the body, so the IMD response disposes of wayw
Contact: Kelly Pery
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital