Sunnybrook researchers have found that a gene called glypican-3 (GPC3), which is responsible for regulating body size, may also trigger discoveries of new therapies for various cancers.
Researchers have discovered the mechanism by which the loss of the GPC3 gene triggers overgrowth through certain growth factors such as Sonic Hedgehog, which stimulate cancer growth.
This study may have future implications in the development of novel therapies for a number of breast, lung and ovarian cancers that have lost the expression of GPC3 gene.
In the study, the researchers examined the molecular mechanism by which lack of functional GPC3 causes overgrowth in the Simpson-Golabi-Behmel syndrome (SGBS), a rare disorder that predisposes to cancers.
"This vital new finding at the molecular level opens doors for the development of novel treatments to inhibit overgrowth activity to benefit SGBS patients and the many breast, lung and ovarian cancer patients linked to loss of GPC3," said Dr. Jorge Filmus, senior scientist, Division of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Sunnybrook Research Institute, and the study's lead investigator.
In fact, early clinical trials presented at the last annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in which cancer patients are being treated using Hedgehog-inhibitor drugs has also shown promise.
GPC3 or glypican-3 is one of six genes of the glypican family. Glypicans are expressed predominantly during development in a stage and tissue specific manner indicating that they play a role in cell growth and in establishing the shape of tissues and organs.
The study is published in Developmental Cell.