One of the mysteries in cancer biology is how one protein, TGF-beta, can both stop cancer from forming and encourage its aggressive growth. Now, researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have uncovered a key gene that may explain this paradox and provide a potential target for treatment.
TGF-beta is known as a tumor suppressor, meaning it’s necessary to keep cells in check and growing normally. But at some point, its function flips and it becomes a tumor promoter, fostering aggressive growth and spread of cancer. The researchers identified Bub1 as a key gene involved in regulating TGF-beta receptor. The study is published in Science Signaling.
The team of researchers at the University of Michigan, including Shyam Nyati, Ph.D., and Brian D. Ross, Ph.D., developed a way to screen for genes that regulate the TGF-beta receptor. When 720 genes from the human genome were screened against lung cancer and breast cancer cells, Bub1 emerged as playing a strong role in TGF-beta signaling. TGF-beta is known to play a role in cells developing characteristics of aggressive cancer cells. Researchers also have known that Bub1 is highly expressed in many different types of cancer. Because Bub1 is found in many types of cancer, developing a drug to target it could potentially impact multiple cancers.