According to the Canadian Cancer Society, one in four Canadians will die of cancer. This year alone, the disease will kill an estimated 75,000 people. With incidence rates on the rise, more cancer patients are facing grave prognoses. Fortunately, Lawson Health Research Institute's Dr. John Lewis, Dr. Ann Chambers, and colleagues have found new hope for survival. Their new study released today in Laboratory Investigation shows that maspin, a cellular protein, can reduce the growth and spread of cancer cells - but only when it is in the nucleus.
Maspin is believed to inhibit the formation, development, and spread of tumors in several aggressive cancers, including breast, ovarian, and head and neck cancers. Yet efforts to use this information to predict how cancer patients will fare have been challenging; the presence of maspin has been linked to both good and bad prognoses. Dr. Lewis, Dr. Chambers, and their team believed that this inconsistency was caused by the location of maspin in the cell, whether in the nucleus or in the cytoplasm, and sought to test this theory.
To assess the effects of maspin on tumor growth and development, they tested two aggressive cancers: a highly invasive head and neck cancer, and a breast cancer known to spread to the lymph nodes and the lungs. The team introduced two forms of maspin into the cancer cells, one that went into the nucleus and one that was blocked from the nucleus. Then they injected the cells into both chicken embryo and mouse models of cancer and asked the simple question: which one slowed the cancer down?