Innovative approach helps to reverse tumour blood vessel growth

In collaboration with the Press Association

Researchers at the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research (WAIMR) have discovered that turning off a specific gene in cancer cells - RGS5 - can reverse angiogenesis, the process where new blood vessels grow inside a tumour.

The team, which was led by Associate Professor Ruth Ganss, had been investigating how blood vessel growth keeps cancers alive, and the results of the investigation have been published in the scientific journal Nature.

Associate Professor Ganss explained that it is the growth of blood vessels and the formation of abnormal blood vessels inside tumours that "feeds" the tumour growth.

The abnormal blood vessels are thought to prevent the immune system from reaching the tumour.

"What we've shown is that RGS5 is a master gene in angiogenesis and that when it is removed, angiogenesis reverses and the blood vessels in tumours appear more normal," Associate Professor Ganss continued.

"Importantly, this normalisation changes the tumour environment in a way that improves immune cell entry, meaning tumours can be destroyed and improving survival rates in laboratory tests."

Previous attempts to reverse angiogenesis have focused on how to block or kill tumour-feeding blood vessels, and Associate Professor Ganss believes the new approach has reaped dividends.

"We've long suspected this research would deliver advances in knowledge about what impacts tumour growth and this publication recognises the innovation and importance of our work," she said.

"By understanding what is actually going on in the tumour itself, the ultimate hope is that we?ll be able to work on making current therapeutic approaches even more successful and reducing side effects of them."