Published discovery may lead to new therapy for deadly cancer

 Dr. Tatyana Zykova, along with other scientists in the Cellular & Molecular Biology lab of The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota, led by Dr. Zigang Dong, published breakthrough colon cancer research in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics. Dr. Zykova and team discovered how a specific protein helps colon cancer metastasize and used this discovery to find a possible new colon cancer therapy.

The article, “Targeting PRPK Function Blocks Colon Cancer Metastasis” was a collaboration with other researchers from The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota, Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China, Jeju National University in Republic of Korea, and Fourth Military Medical University in China, including Drs. Feng Zhu, Lei Wang, Haitao Li, Do Young Lim, Ke Yao, Eunmiri Roh, Sang-Pil Yoon, Hong-Gyum Kim, Ki Beom Bae, Weihong Wen, Seung Ho Shin, Janos Nadas, Yan Li, Weiya Ma, Ann M. Bode, and Zigang Dong.

“This discovery is critically important because of the health threat that escalates when colon cancer progresses and affects other parts of the body” said Dr. Zykova.  “This research opens the door to a treatment that limits the progression of the cancer. That way good health and life can be protected.”

The article focuses on a protein called the p53 related protein kinase (PRPK).  The research team found that this protein helped cancer spread from the colon to other parts of the body such as the liver and the lungs. They also found that lowering PRPK levels slowed colon cancer metastasis. The most deadly aspect of cancer is its ability to spread, or metastasize. Cancer cells initially group together to form a primary tumor. Once the tumor is formed, cells may begin to break off from this tumor and travel to other parts of the body. This process is metastasis and Zykova’s discovery is important because it interrupts this process.

In an exciting addition to this discovery, the group of scientists working on this paper also identified an FDA approved compound called fusidic acid (FA) that blocked the PRPK protein and helped stop the spread of colon cancer in lab experiments. Experiments showed that when FA was combined with a chemotherapy drug called 5-flourouracil or 5-FU, the combination treatment was able to efficiently block colon cancer metastasis.

Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, and when colon cancer metastasizes it is often even more difficult to treat. This research is important because the innovative combination therapy the research team tested in the lab could be an alternative cancer therapy for colon cancer patients.