Scientists Better Understand Tumor Progression Thanks to New Study

Epidermal growth factor receptors may offer cancer treatment target.

Epidermal growth factor receptors may offer cancer treatment target.

New research may lead to a new method to evaluate and treat cancerous tumors.

Scientists at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center found new insight into tumor progression following a recent study. Investigators already know that epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFR) promote tumor progression in many types of cancer.

What they did not know is that EGFR may be shut down with the help of a cytokine known as MIF.

EGFR activation regulation has not been clearly understood by scientists until recently. Human cells do not have an external antagonist that regulates EGFR.

The tumor microenvironment is the cellular landscape in which a tumor exists, including surrounding blood vessels, immune cells, fibroblasts and other cells and structures. It is renowned as a key factor in disease progression.

MIF seems to be a vital part of EGFR activation regulation in tumor cells’ extracellular environment.

“MIF can be secreted from both tumor and immune cells,” said Zhimin Lu, MD, PhD, professor of Neuro-Oncology. “Importantly, secreted MIF is modified by an attached sugar group which allows MIF to gain a specific new function compared to its non-modified form.”

The team of researchers reached the conclusion that the modified MIF binds to EFGR, inhibiting EGFR by blocking the epidermal growth factor to bind to EGFR in cancer cells.

“Cancer cells secret MMP13, an enzyme involved in many phases of cancer progression,” Dr. Lu said. “MMP13 degrades extracellular MIF impacting EGFR in such a way that it promotes EGFR activation, tumor cell invasion, and finally, forms brain tumors.”

The findings illustrate an important mechanism underlying amplified EGFR activation in tumors. This is mediated by downregulation of its antagonist, MIF, in the tumor microenvironment.

This new finding could change the approach to treating cancer by intervening in the self-regulating loop, according to the researchers. The new insight into tumor progression may lead to breakthrough treatments of cancerous tumors and may result in many cases of positive treatment responses.