A key gene that, when turned off, promotes the development of common kidney cancer has been identified by scientists.
Their findings suggest that a combination of agents now being tested in other cancers may turn the gene back on, providing a much-needed therapy for the difficult-to-treat cancer.
Researchers at Mayo Clinic's campus in Florida describe a gene called GATA3 that has been silenced in clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC), the most common kind of kidney cancer, and is a key gene also lost in breast cancer.
GATA3 controls many genes and proteins that regulate cell growth, and one of them, a receptor known as the type III transforming growth factor-_ receptor (T_RIII), is absent in a number of cancers.
According to the study's senior investigator, John Copland, a cancer biologist at the Mayo Clinic campus at Florida, these findings will surprise many in the cancer field.
"Cancer researchers know that GATA3 is essential for immune T cell development and function. As well, very recent studies show that GATA3 is also critical to breast cancer development, where GATA3 expression is limited to mammary luminal epithelial cells. GATA3 is lost during breast cancer progression and its loss is a strong predictor of poor clinical outcome in luminal breast cancer. GATA3 also plays an important role in renal development and differentiation during embryogenesis, but little is known about the role of GATA3 in the adult human kidney," he said.
"Now it looks like GATA3 regulates the expression of genes that are critical to cancer control in the kidney, and silencing it appears to be very important to the growth of kidney cancer and probably to others tumors, as well. No one could have guessed that would be the case in kidney cancer. This is a completely novel finding," he added.
The study has been published in the May 20, 2010 issue of Oncogene.