Institute scientist makes liver cancer breakthrough

February 16, 2018

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Discovery suppresses liver tumor growth

February 16, 2018 (Austin, Minnesota) – Dr. Ningling Kang and team from The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota published exciting new research in the high impact journal Gastroenterology impacting liver cancer development. The research focuses on the role that specialized cells and enzymes play in tumor growth in the liver.

The article, “P300 acetyltransferase mediates stiffness-induced activation of hepatic stellate cells into tumor-promoting myofibroblasts” was a collaboration with other researchers including Drs. Changwei Dou, Zhikui Liu, Kangsheng Tu, Hongbin Zhang, Chen Chen, Usman Yaqoob, Yuanguo Wang, Jialing Wen, Jan van Deursen, Delphine Sicard, Daniel Tschumperlin, Hongzhi Zou, Wei-Chien Huang, Raul Urrutia and Vijay H. Shah.

"This discovery is important because we found a critical molecule that creates an environment for cancer spreading in the liver," said Dr. Kang, head of the Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis laboratory of The Hormel Institute.

“Understanding how cancer and the liver interact allows us to test therapies to stop the spread and growth of cancer in the liver.”

The article focuses on the role of an enzyme, p300, which regulates gene transcription. Cancer cells recruit these specialized cells to help create an environment that promotes tumor growth. When cancer cells recruit the specialized cells, called hepatic stellate cells, to build stiff tissue and tumor masses in the liver, the stiffness causes p300 to accumulate and tumor growth is promoted. When the p300 gene of the specialized cells was disrupted, tumor growth was suppressed.

The liver is a common site for growth of cancer cells, including breast or colorectal cancer cells. When cancer cells grow in secondary areas, such as colorectal cancer growing in the liver, it is called metastasis. Current treatment options for liver cancer, both primary and metastasis, are very limited and contribute to mortality of these cancer patients.  

Dr. Kang's research discovery is important because it identifies a new therapeutic target for suppressing cancer growth in the liver. Dr. Kang and team will next begin testing possible drug combination therapies to disrupt or inhibit p300 in the quest to suppress colorectal cancer growth in the liver.

The full article can be found here:

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About The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota

The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota is a leading cancer research department of UMN and part of the Masonic Cancer Center, an NCI Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Collaborative research partners with Mayo Clinic, Zhengzhou University, MD Anderson, Columbia University, University of Arizona and more renowned centers worldwide, The Hormel Institute tripled in size in 2008 and again doubled in size in 2016.  Currently, the faculty and staff are comprised of 130 leading cancer research scientists and 14 cancer research sections.  Over the next few years, The Hormel Institute UMN will add another 130 new faculty and staff jobs as part of its expansion as it continues to perform world-class research in the quest to prevent and control cancer.