New research has uncovered the existence of a protein that helps tumors spread, enabling their capacity to grow blood vessels. Could targeting this protein in cancer treatment experimentation lead to a new potential cure?
Not So Fast!
Published in the journal Oncogene, the study involved laboratory experiments blocking the protein latent TGF-beta binding protein 3 (LTBP3), prevented tumors from effectively metastasizing. A collaborative effort between multiple researchers, the investigation began based on the observation that lower levels of the protein LTBP3 correlated to an improved survival outcome in those with certain types of cancer.
A Complex Dynamic
The LTBP3 protein binds to a substance called TGF-beta to metastasize. TGF-beta presents a double-edged sword, either aiding the spread of tumors – or putting a halt to metastasis. Our bodies rely on TGF-beta to function properly. In early stages, it suppresses cancer growth. However in advanced cancers, it transforms and promotes tumor growth. The cancer treatment trick? To control the harmful effects of TGF-beta without disturbing normal cell function.
A Confirmed Association
As researchers looked closer into the interplay of LTBP3 and TGF-beta using head and neck carcinoma and fibroscarcoma in mice and chicks, the scientists discovered LTBP3 helps tumors grow blood vessels, and primary tumors could not metastasize properly in its absence. This corroborated the previous research associating lower levels of the LTBP3 protein with better patient outcomes. Further research into this complex dynamic is highly anticipated.
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