What makes cancer so deadly is unchecked growth. But a new discovery from OMRF could hold a key to putting out-of-control cancer cells in check.
In a paper published in the journal Science, researchers have identified a new potential target for cancer therapies. OMRF’s Gary Gorbsky, Ph.D., collaborated with scientists from Harvard Medical School and the University of Virginia Medical School on the project.
“Scientists discovered an enzyme called haspin just over a decade ago, but we didn’t know what it did,” said Gorbsky, who holds the W.H. and Betty Phelps Chair in Developmental Biology at OMRF. “What we’ve now found is that it is very important in the process of cell division, making sure each new cell gets the right number of chromosomes.”
Cancer cells often go awry in the cell division process—both dividing too often and without properly separating the chromosomes.
“Having too many or too few chromosomes increases the malignant potential of the cancer cells,” he said. “We know that the pathway that haspin participates in is often misregulated in cancer cells, so haspin may turn out to be a good target for cancer therapy.”
Gorbsky said the discovery could mean new drugs to stop cancer’s rapid growth with fewer side effects. Some of these experimental drugs are already in the earliest stages of development. The findings also provide insight into the inner workings of the disease, which could yield new clues about why cancer starts.
The next step in Gorbsky’s research will be to continue collaboration with Jonathan Higgins, PhD, leader of the group at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School to study what happens to cells in the haspin pathway.
Support for the research was provided through grants from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the McCasland Foundation. Gorbsky credits OMRF lab manager John Daum for performing many of the experiments in the project.