Mayo Clinic researchers say gene in brain linked to kidney cancer

June 27, 2014

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Florida have this week published a study in Cancer Research revealing that a gene known to control brain growth and development is heavily involved in promoting clear cell renal cell carcinoma, the most common form of kidney cancer. The research uncovered that the gene NPTX2 plays an essential role in this cancer type, which is resistant to common chemotherapy and has a five-year overall survival rate of less than 10% in patients with metastatic disease. The study not only shows that NPTX2 is active in kidney cancer, but is the first to reveal that the gene is over-expressed in any human cancer. The researchers are now looking into whether NPTX2 may act in other cancers.

“We found that a gene known to play a role in the healthy brain is also the No. 1 gene associated with this most lethal of all urological cancers,” says the study’s senior investigator John A. Copland, PhD. Because the NPTX2 gene is not expressed in normal kidney tissue, a drug designed to target its protein would provide a highly focused treatment, Dr. Copland says. The team is working on several different approaches to an NPTX2 inhibitor.

The researchers also discovered that a receptor, known as GluR4, that the NPTX2 protein usually targets in the brain is also found in the kidney cancer samples. They found out how NPTX2 and GluR4 promote cancer growth and metastasis. In kidney cancer, the over-expressed NPTX2 protein is secreted from the cell and then attaches itself to GluR4 on the kidney cancer cell membrane. Investigators found that NPTX2 was expressed in all stages of kidney cancer, especially metastasis, which suggests it plays an important role in tumor development and progression. Its expression could be used as a biomarker test to ensure patients might benefit from an NPTX2 inhibitor, when one is developed. Read the study abstract.

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