JERUSALEM, May 16 (Xinhua) — Israeli researchers have found that the malfunction of two key genes often causes cancer, which may lead to new treatments for breast cancer, the Weizmann Institute of Science reported Thursday.
The two genes, LATS1 and LATS2, are on a chain of biochemical reactions called the “hippo pathway.” Defects in this pathway in humans often lead to the development of cancer.
The LATS genes regulate the activity of the tumor suppressor gene p53, known as a protector of the human genome.
In the new research published in the journal Life Science Alliance, scientists found that when the activity of LATS1 was impaired or missing, mice developed aggressive tumors that fail to respond to hormone therapy.
It also found that the lack of LATS2 results in tumors resembling a subtype of human breast cancer called luminal which may respond to estrogen-blocking drugs such as tamoxifen.
The scientists said that testing levels of LATS1 and LATS2 in cancer patients may provide a more accurate criterion for whether hormonal therapy may help or not.
The study therefore confirmed that LATS gene’s family are tumor inhibitors and prevent the cell from becoming cancerous. The finding explains why cancer may break out even when p53 works properly.
The research also found that low levels of LATS2’s expression lead to a metabolic rewiring of the cell, causing it to become highly dependent on the glucose that supplies the cancer with energy.
When the scientists genetically engineered breast cancer cells to increase LATS2’s expression and exposed them to an antidiabetic drug that alters glucose metabolism, these cells often died.
The finding may help develop new treatments for tumors with increased glucose metabolism.