SPARC protein acts much like ibuprofen to heal tissues inflamed by tumors

Published on January 19, 2013 at 12:38 AM · No Comments

Cancer researchers are increasingly aware that in addition to genetic mutations in a cancer itself, characteristics of the surrounding tissue can promote or suppress tumor growth. One of these important tissue characteristics is inflammation - most cancers prosper in and attach to inflamed tissue and so many cancers have developed ways to create it.

A University of Colorado Cancer Center study published today in the Journal of Clinical Investigation shows that the protein SPARC (Secreted Protein Acidic and Rich in Cysteine) acts much like an anti-inflammatory drug, attempting to heal tissues inflamed by tumors. Likewise, cancers - for example, bladder cancer in this study - have developed ways to turn off the production of SPARC, thus allowing growth and metastasis, especially to the lung where bladder cancer is frequently fatal.

"In fact, we show the effects of SPARC go beyond even this anti-inflammatory role. Additionally, the protein is involved in disallowing migrating cancer cells from attaching at possible metastasis sites and stopping the production of new blood vessels needed to feed tumor tissue," says Dan Theodorescu, MD, PhD, director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center and the study's senior author.

The study started by evaluating SPARC levels in human bladder cancer samples. In less aggressive cancers, both the tumor and the surrounding tissue made SPARC. In more aggressive cancers, it was just the surrounding tissue that made SPARC - the aggressive tumor itself had suppressed production of the protein. In these human bladder cancer tumors, more SPARC was associated with longer survival.

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