Enzyme playing key role in breast cancer also affects bowel cancer
7 Feb 2011
Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) have
found an important new drug target for advanced bowel cancer that could
also be used to identify tumours that will respond to a drug already
used in other cancers.
Dr Janine Erler and colleagues earlier discovered the enzyme
lysyl oxidase (LOX) plays a key role in the spread of breast cancer,
and suspected it may also be involved in metastasis of other
In the latest study, published in the Journal of the National
Cancer Institute, Dr Erler’s team confirmed LOX was also
important in bowel cancer growth and spread. They found cell growth
increased in tumour cells with high levels of LOX, while low levels
of LOX led to limited cell growth.
The team further showed that LOX was activating a molecule called
SRC to promote cancer growth and spread. A drug called dasatinib is
known to block SRC function and is already being used to treat
In laboratory tests, Dr Erler’s team found dasatinib reduced
bowel cancer cell growth by inhibiting the effects of LOX.
“Our findings have revealed two potential new avenues for
combating advanced bowel cancer — either with existing SRC inhibitor
treatments or with drugs currently being developed to target LOX,”
Dr Erler says.
“We are looking forward to future clinical trials to see whether
these drugs could benefit patients with advanced bowel cancer, who
currently have few treatment options.”
The research also showed that a test for levels of LOX expression
could be used to recognise cancers whose SRC molecules are highly
activated, therefore identifying patients most likely to benefit
from treatment with dasatinib.
The study was supported by the Medical Research Council, the ICR,
Cancer Research UK, and a Seeding Drug Discovery award from the
Professor Malcolm Dunlop of the Medical Research Council (MRC)
says: "Finding a way to prevent metastatic spread of tumours is
crucial if we are to reduce the number of deaths from bowel cancer.
The discovery that controlling the enzyme LOX could influence
colorectal cancer cell growth is very encouraging. Supporting
excellent research which answers fundamental questions about how
cancer cells manifest in our body is vital if we are to see new and
better treatments in the clinic."
Dr Julie Sharp, senior science information manager at Cancer
Research UK, said: "Cancer spread causes most deaths from the
disease and is a key challenge for our doctors and scientists. This
research sheds light on how bowel cancer spreads and offers new
avenues that scientists can exploit to try and treat people with
advanced disease more effectively."