Manipulating features of cells ‘could help to slow cancer’

New research, published in the journal Genes & Development, makes the case that manipulating elements of cells called nuclear pores could eventually prevent cancerous cells from proliferating.

Geneticist at work in a lab
All cells have nuclear pores, but they appear in excessive numbers in some cancerous cells.

Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the United States, after heart disease. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimate that about 1.7 million cancer cases will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2018 and more than 600,000 Americans will die from cancer this year.

This translates to about 1,670 cancer-related deaths each day.

All cells have nuclear pores — they are essential transport channels that help to move cellular material to and from a cell’s nucleus, which is the part of the cell that contains its genes.

Nuclear pores are an area of interest for cancer research because they appear in excessive numbers in certain cancerous cells. Some research has therefore looked at how nuclear pores affect cancer treatment.

For instance, scientists know from the findings of other studies that preventing cancer-related proteins from passing through nuclear pores can dramatically impact cancer treatment. They also know that nuclear pores can promote treatment resistance in some aggressive cancers, as they can excrete chemotherapy from the cells, weakening its benefits.

Nuclear pores are made up of a type of protein called nucleoporins. The researchers behind the new study, from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, CA, were particularly interested in a nucleoporin called Tpr, which has previously been associated with some cancers.

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