Navigate Up
UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Patients and medical professionals may call 1-800-533-UPMC (8762) for more information.

UPMC Media Relations

Recently Discovered Gene Appears To Play Important Role In Controlling The Growth Of Colorectal Cancer Cells

PITTSBURGH, February 17, 2003 Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have found that a recently discovered gene plays an essential role in mediating apoptosis, or cell death, in colorectal cancer cells.

The results are published in the Feb. 18 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The gene, PUMA, or p53 up-regulated modulator of apoptosis, is controlled by p53 a tumor-suppressing gene that prevents normal cells from turning into life-threatening tumor cells. Previous research has determined that damage to p53 is fundamental to the development of a vast majority of cancers, and inactivation of the growth-controlling function of p53 is critical to the growth and spread of most cancers.

The leading investigators of the study, Lin Zhang, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology, University of Pittsburgh and Jian Yu, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology, University of Pittsburgh, performed several gene targeting experiments involving PUMA and found that if the gene is deleted in colorectal cancer cells, cell death is prevented. These findings build on previous findings published in 2001 in Molecular Cell, where the same research team identified PUMA as a novel gene that when expressed, resulted in rapid and profound apoptosis.

This research results from our interest in looking at how cancer cells die when treated with anti-cancer therapies and why chemotherapy often fails to destroy cancer, said Dr. Yu. We have learned that when we get rid of PUMA in cancer cells, the cells are more resistant to dying compared to their counterparts that have intact PUMA.

Given these findings, our next step is to look for compounds that elevate the level of PUMA in colorectal cancer cells, enabling us to test promising new therapies for cancer. PUMA itself is also an attractive target for gene therapy. At UPCI, we are trying to expand these approaches to a variety of cancers, said Dr. Zhang.

This study was funded, in part, by a grant from the National Institutes of Health. Co-authors of the study include, Zhenghe Wang, Ph.D., Kenneth W. Kinzler, Ph.D., and Bert Vogelstein, M.D., all with the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University.

World-renowned for innovative approaches to cancer prevention, detection and diagnosis, UPCI recently relocated to the Hillman Cancer Center at UPMC Shadyside Hospital. The Hillman Cancer Center is the flagship facility for both UPCI and the UPMC Cancer Centers  a network of more than 30 office-based medical oncology practices and regional cancer centers that provide the highest standard of care for patients throughout western Pennsylvania. UPCI and the UPMC Cancer Centers program in cancer currently ranks 11th in the country.

For more information on this and other ongoing research projects at UPCI, please visit www.upci.upmc.edu.

©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com