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Taiwan’s Tsing Hua University finds new biomarkers to precisely treat gastric cancer

Team injected Midostaurin into cancer-stricken zebrafish and mice, shrunk tumors and suppressed metastasis

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Prof. Wang Wen-ching (left) (National Tsing Hua University photo)

Prof. Wang Wen-ching (left) (National Tsing Hua University photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — National Tsing Hua University said on Tuesday (Nov. 3) that the university’s Institute of Molecular & Cellular Biology team has found two key molecular biomarkers of gastric cancer deterioration and metastasis and used medicines available on the market to effectively eliminate the cancer cells and suppress their metastasis.

The university said in a report published on its website that the team led by Professor Wang Wen-ching (王雯靜) had found the two biomarkers of gastric cancer deterioration and metastasis by leveraging big data.

As many patients are diagnosed with gastric cancer after it has metastasized to other parts of the body, it’s critical to develop new, targeted therapy to treat the illness, Wang said.

She added that currently there is only one precision medicine for treating gastric cancer, which applies to only 20 percent of patients. With the discovery of the new biomarkers, Wang said, the existing and new precision medicines will be able to benefit 40 percent of gastric cancer patients.

The professor said that the uncontrolled spread of the diseased cells is mainly caused by the tumor suppressor gene PTEN losing its function.

The team collected information from more than 300 gastric cancer cases and then leveraged big data to find the biological mechanism that makes the cancer deteriorate as well as two related enzymes, PHF8 and PKCα. The team found that gastric cancer tissue contains a high level of PHF8, which induces PKCα to increase significantly and inhibits the function of the tumor suppressor gene.

Fortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Midostaurin, which can suppress PKCα, for treating leukemia, Wang said. She added that the team injected the medicine into cancer-stricken zebrafish and mice for targeted therapy and confirmed that it can both shrink the tumor and suppress its metastasis.