The team concludes that it may be necessary to knock down both EGFR's glucose-related role and its growth-inducing kinase activity in order to attack cancers of the epithelium - tissue that lines the surfaces and cavities of the body's organs. Epithelial cancers, or carcinomas, make up 80 percent of all cancers.
EGFR resides on the surface of cell membranes, where epidermal growth factor (EGF) and transforming growth factor-alpha (TGF-a) can bind to the receptor, launching a molecular phosphorylation cascade, which stimulates the cell to divide. This normal tyrosine kinase activity is put on overdrive in cancer cells because EGFR is heavily overexpressed on the cell's surface.
Block EGFR and cancer cells die of self-cannibalization
In the current research, the team looked at expression of EGFR but not its kinase activity. They found that blocking expression of the receptor with small interfering RNA killed prostate cancer cells. The cells did not die from apoptosis - programmed cell death that forces a defective cell to commit suicide by destroying its DNA complex and its energy-producing mitochondria.
Rather, these cells died of autophagy - a self-cannibalization response in which a cell under stress or lacking nutrients devours part of its cytoplasm and other organelles to survive. When this response goes on long enough, the cell essentially eats itself until it dies. In cancer research, autophagy is thought to be a second type of programmed cell death.
This self-eating response was also seen in breast cancer and colon cancer cells.
Next, the team measured glucose levels in two sets of prostate cancer cells - one treated by a tyrosine kinase
|Contact: Scott Merville|
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center