Team Led by Wei Guo Identifies New Mechanism of Cancer Spread

December 10, 2013

A new study by Penn scientists has identified key steps that trigger the disintegration of cellular regulation that causes cancer. Their discovery—that a protein called Exo70 has a split personality, with one form keeping cells under tight control and another that promotes cell movement, contributing to the ability of tumors to invade distant parts of the body—points to new possibilities for diagnosing cancer metastasis.

The research, published in the journal Developmental Cell, was conducted by a team comprised of researchers from the Department of Biology, including Associate Professor and senior author of the study Wei Guo; the Perelman School of Medicine’s pathobiology and laboratory medicine, medicine, and genetics departments; and China’s Hangzhou Normal University School of Medicine.

Exo70 plays a role a the process known as exocytosis, by which cells transport proteins and other molecules to the membrane and release them. There are five forms of Exo70, two of which, Exo70M and Exo70E, promote cell movement and cell stability, respectively. Essentially, these have the potential to serve as biomarkers for clinicians to judge the progression of cancers or the likelihood of a particular case of cancer to spread.

In addition to Guo, the paper authors include Penn’s Hezhe Lu, Jianglan Liu, and Jingwen Zeng of the Department of Biology; Shujing Liu and Xiaowei Xu of the Department of Pathobiology and Laboratory Medicine; and Russ Carstens of the Departments of Medicine and Genetics. They collaborated with Dequiang Ding and Yusheng Cong of the Institute of Aging Research at China’s Hangzhou Normal University of Medicine.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

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