Novel protein complex may combat gastric cancer caused by bacterial infection

July 11, 2014

A team of scientists from the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore (CSI Singapore) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) has discovered that the protein IL23A is part of the stomach’s defense against a bacterial infection that leads to gastric cancer. The research group, led Yoshiaki Ito, MD, PhD, also showed that the production of IL23A by stomach cells requires the tumor suppressor gene RUNX3, which is frequently silenced in gastric cancer. The study was recently published online in Cell Reports.

It has been known that a major trigger for the development of gastric cancer is the infection of a bacterium, Helicobacter pylori. The battle against this bacterium often causes persistent inflammation of the stomach, which is a dangerous cancer-causing condition. In this study, the researchers found that IL23A, normally produced only by white blood cells, is released by stomach cells when exposed to H. Pylori; this demonstrates that IL23A is part of the stomach’s defense against bacterial infection. At the same time, the team found that production of IL23A by stomach cells requires RUNX3.

The involvement of RUNX3 appears particularly important during inflammation and infection caused by the bacterium. When stomach cells lose RUNX3, they become defective in their ability to respond to infection by H. Pylori, making the stomach vulnerable to this carcinogenic bacterium.

In the next phase of research, the team will focus on determining the function of the novel IL23A complex they discovered, as part of their overall strategy to combat H. pylori-induced gastric cancer. Concomitant application for patent protection of this work by NUS will facilitate industry involvement, so that this research can be effectively used to develop novel treatments to combat gastric cancer. Read the study.

Read more