Tag: Cancer

Photo of girl with hemifacial microsomia (HFM)

Scientists find gene behind a highly prevalent facial anomaly

May 9, 2014

Whitehead Institute scientists have identified a genetic cause of a facial disorder known as hemifacial microsomia (HFM). The researchers find that duplication of the gene OTX2 induces HFM, the second-most common facial anomaly after cleft lip and palate.

Diagram of the Nutrostat machine

How diabetes drugs may work against cancer

March 16, 2014

Scientists at Whitehead Institute have pinpointed a major mitochondrial pathway that imbues cancer cells with the ability to survive in low-glucose environments. By identifying cancer cells with defects in this pathway or with impaired glucose utilization, the scientists can predict which tumors will be sensitive to these anti-diabetic drugs known to inhibit this pathway.

Image showing how cells with and without normal FLCN gene react to nutrients

Gene responsible for hereditary cancer syndrome found to disrupt critical growth-regulating pathway

November 7, 2013

Whitehead Institute scientists report that the gene mutated in the rare hereditary disorder known as Birt-Hogg-Dubé cancer syndrome prevents activation of mTORC1, a critical nutrient-sensing and growth-regulating cellular pathway.   

Thwarting protein production slows cancer cells’ malignant march

July 18, 2013

Protein production or translation is tightly coupled to a highly conserved stress response—the heat shock response and its primary regulator, heat shock factor 1 (HSF1)—that cancer cells rely on for survival and proliferation, according to Whitehead Institute researchers. In mouse models of cancer, therapeutic inhibition of translation interrupts HSF1’s activity, dramatically slowing tumor growth and potentially rendering drug-resistant tumors responsive to other therapies.

Diagram of the mechanism cancer cells use to convert into cancer stem cells

Scientists identify gene that controls aggressiveness in breast cancer cells

July 3, 2013

Whitehead Institute researchers have determined that in basal breast cancer cells a transcription factor known as ZEB1 is held in a poised state, ready to increase the cells’ aggressiveness and enable them to transform into cancer stem cells capable of seeding new tumors throughout the body. Intriguingly, luminal breast cancer cells, which are associated with a much better clinical prognosis, carry this gene in a state in which it seems to be permanently shut down.

Image of GATOR1's location in cells where it is functional and nonfunctional

Protein complex in key cell-growth pathway could help predict response to cancer therapy

May 30, 2013

Whitehead Institute researchers have identified a protein complex that, when mutated, sends the master growth regulatory pathway known as mTORC1 into overdrive. Researchers believe that mutations in this complex could serve as biomarkers to predict response to rapamycin treatment in cancer patients.

Graphical explanation of MCT1's role in 3-BrPA's uptake by some cancer cells

Cell surface transporters exploited for cancer drug delivery

December 2, 2012

According to Whitehead Institute researchers, a protein known as monocarboxylate transporter 1 (MCT1), which is highly expressed in a subset of metabolically altered cancer cells, is needed for the entry of the investigational cancer drug 3-bromopyruvate (3-BrPA) into malignant cells.

Aggressive cancer exploits MYC oncogene to amplify global gene activity

September 27, 2012

Whitehead Institute researchers have determined the mechanism used by c-Myc to increase the expression of all active genes in cancer cells. Elevated levels of c-Myc are linked to increased rates of metastasis, disease recurrence, and mortality in cancer patients. Guided by this new model, researchers hope to find ways to restrict c-Myc's activity to eradicate cancer cells that become dependent on c-Myc for their survival.

Microscope images of samples extracted from cancer tumors and adjacent tissues

Heat-shock factor reveals its unique role in supporting highly malignant cancers

August 2, 2012

Whitehead Institute researchers have found that an ancient, highly conserved cell survival factor drives expression of a specific set of genes that is strongly associated with metastasis and death in patients with breast, colon, and lung cancers.

Schematic diagram of the Hsp90 protein.

Breast cancer clinical trial to test combination of heat shock protein inhibitor and hormonal therapy

May 22, 2012

A clinical trial involving collaboration between researchers at Whitehead Institute and Dana Farber Cancer Institute is now enrolling patients with recurrent or metastatic estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer.

Breast tissue showing both breast cancer cells and normal breast epithelial cells

High levels of master heat shock protein linked to poor prognosis in breast cancer patients

October 31, 2011

Whitehead Institute scientists report that patients whose estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancers have high levels of an ancient cellular survival factor experience poor outcomes—including increased mortality.

Diagram of cancer cell type equilibrium

Cancer stem cells made, not born

August 18, 2011

New findings by scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Whitehead Institute point to a decentralized society in tumors, with cancer cells able to interconvert between different types. These results have potential implications for the treatment of tumors, in particular, that attacking cancer stem cells alone may not be enough to fight cancer.

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