Taiwanese scientists identify gene responsible for cancer spread

Jou Yuh-shan (周玉山) (Photo courtesy of CNA, 2018.5.3)

Taipei, May 2 (CNA) A team of Taiwanese scientists have identified a gene that is largely responsible for the spread of cancer in the body, giving rise to hope that the medical community can develop a targeted treatment against it and prolong the lives of cancer patients.

It took eight to 10 years, but lead researcher Jou Yuh-shan (周玉山), a research fellow at Academia Sinica, announced at a press conference Wednesday that his team has isolated a gene — the paraspeckle component 1 (PSPC1) — that is the “master activator” for tumor spread and growth.

PSPC1 is also integral in the development of cancer stem cells, which not only give rise to tumors but are also highly resistant to cancer treatment and drugs, he continued.

Essentially, what it does is hijack the functions of the transforming growth factor beta 1, which in a person without cancer helps to regulate cell growth, to produce and prolong the survival of cancer cells.

The team has not only identified this gene and the role it plays in 60 percent to 70 percent of all cases of cancer spread, but has also found an inhibitor for it that Jou said can hopefully be developed into a drug.

The development and testing of such a drug, however, could take between 10 and 20 years, he concluded.

The breakthrough research made the pages of the scientific journal Nature Cell Biology in April.

(By Chang Ming-hsuan and Kuan-lin Liu)