These findings were published by chemists at Harvard University, who say that these proteins and the biochemical reactions that they trigger could hold the key to oncogenesis, the process of formation of cancer in the body. Cancer arises when an oncoprotien, a protein known to cause cancer, is activated and becomes the trigger for the development of cancer, 'We present the hypothesis that an important component of oncogenesis is the ability of proteins to turn on alternative, secondary signaling pathways when overexpressed, rather than simply upregulating primary pathways.' said Gavin MacBeath, an assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology in Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences and co-author of the paper. The researchers tracked the activity of four human ErbB receptors, which have been implicated in a wide variety of cancers. They found that two of these proteins, EGFR and ErbB2, become 'promiscuous' triggering a haywire biochemical reaction. 'These two promiscuous ErbB proteins are known to be overactive in many human cancers, suggesting that their ability to turn on rampant signaling may contribute to their high oncogenic potential,' MacBeath commented. 'This newfound link may also offer alternative strategies for therapeutic intervention.'
It is generally accepted by drug companies that they target specific receptors when manufacturing drugs for chemotherapy. The above research could help them formulate drugs for EGFR and ErbB2 and target secondary pathways in oncogenesis.