Single cellular mechanism links unrelated cancers, says study

In collaboration with the Press Association

Scientists studying basic cancer biology have found that a single faulty pathway may be key to the development of several different types of cancer.

The scientists, based at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in the US, showed that a small family of proteins that regulate cell growth, known as MiF proteins, seems to be malfunctioning in malignant melanomas, two forms of soft-tissue sarcomas and a form of kidney cancer normally found in children.

These cancers are notorious for being difficult to treat.

These results raise the possibility that scientists may be able to develop a single drug to target the faulty pathway in the different types of cancer

"One would have never thought of grouping these tumours together," said lead author professor David Fisher, adding that others may yet be added to the group.

"The importance of this finding is that it suggests a common 'engine' is driving these seemingly unrelated cancers. Therefore, it is plausible that common therapeutic strategies might be applied to the tumours as well."

The research group say that they are already applying the new-found knowledge by extending trials of an effective new melanoma drug to the other cancers.

The study is published in the June edition of the journal Cancer Cell.

Learn more about how cells can become cancerous

Read the abstract of this paper