A novel function in a previously known gene may help cells divide normally, but its absence might cause tumors, particularly in colon cancer. These are the results from a team of The University of Manchester scientists, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal.
The scientific community has previously demonstrated that the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) has a role in cell advancement, metabolism and immune responses. The GR can be found in almost every cell throughout the body, and many available drugs, such as prednisolone, act by influencing this protein.
The research team found that in cells lacking the GR, cell division was disrupted, leading to errors in chromosome segregation, a common feature of cancer. Upon GR expression downregulation in mice models the team observed an increase in colon tumors as the animals grew older. Further investigation showed that tumors displayed even less GR levels than the normal surrounding tissue.
Dr. David Ray, who led the research and is a Professor at the University’s Institute of Human Development, said in a press release, “Cancer is caused by cell division going wrong, but no one has previously looked at the role GR has to play in this process. It’s now clear that it is vital.”
Besides colon cancer, other human cancers were studied such as lung, liver, prostate, and breast; the results revealed that decreased GR expression is, in fact, a common feature in a wide variety of cancer cell types, pointing out a crucial relationship between malignant progression and GR levels. It also seems that the GR can act as a tumor suppressor.
Study’s leading author, Laura Matthews, concluded, “We do need to add more research to these findings, but this new mechanism adds a lot more to our knowledge of how cancers form, and with that knowledge we’re much better equipped to develop new treatments which could eventually be used in humans.”