Taiwanese scientists isolate gene that spurs spread of cancer

Team of Taiwanese scientists at Academia Sinica have identified the gene that causes the spread of the majority of cancers

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Jou Yuh-shan.

Jou Yuh-shan. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- After 10 years of research, a team of Taiwanese scientists have identified the gene responsible for the spread of cancer in the body for 60 to 70 percent of all cancer cases, reported UDN.

Jou Yuh-shan (周玉山), a research fellow at Academia Sinica, announced at a press conference on Wednesday (May 2), that a team of scientists has discovered a gene called the paraspeckle component 1 (PSPC1), which they found controls the metastasis of cancer cells and can even control the function of other genes to prevent apoptosis (process of programmed cell death) in cancer cells and prolong their survival. The scientists found that between 60 to 70 percent of late stage cancer tumor cells had a large amount of PSPC1 present, including breast cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer and prostate cancer.

Jou said that PSPC1 not only promotes cancer cell proliferation, but it also turns regular cells into mobile cells, promotes cancer metastasis, and even develops cancer stem cells that cause tumors and build resistance against cancer treatment drugs. It also hijacks transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β1) to prevent cell apoptosis, enabling cancer cells to survive.

Jou explained that TGF-β1 is a double-edged sword because in normal cells it controls cell proliferation and induces apoptosis, however, once the human body suffers from cancer, a high expression of PSPC1 will convert the function of TGF-β1 to promote the survival and growth of cancer cells.

In fact, Jou pointed out that PSPC1 exists in almost every human, but in a normal person, the presence is very low. It is only when cancer arises that PSPC1 activates and promotes cancer cell proliferation.

The results of the study showing both the function of PSPC1 and the expression of TGF-β1 in cancer metastasis were breakthroughs in the scientific community and were published in the scientific journal Nature Cell Biology in April.

Jou stressed the though the team has found an inhibitor of PSPC1, which will lead to the development of cancer drugs in the future, it make take 10 to 20 years before it can be applied to cancer treatments for the general public.