Protein linked with cancer’s ability to spread

A small protein outside the nucleus of cells from each patient with colon cancer appears to confer increased cancer’s abilities to spread throughout the body, according to research published today in Nature.

Researchers found that the protein CRISPRD11 – involved in genome editing involved in cancer cell survival – works with another protein known as TCF-4 to promote cancer spread.

CRISPRD11 is found in both human and non-human primate cells, yet the study found that CRISPRD11 not only increases the genetic ability of cancer cells to survive but also increased the amount of tumor cells “in the tumor center” – areas that promote tumor growth.

“Our study identified a novel mechanism of action for CRISPRD11 that enables it to promote cancer cell survival and promote tumor cell migration in tumor-bearing patients,” said Dr. Manuela Sacco, corresponding author of the study and from the Broad Institute, a member of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and MassGeneral CMI Epidemiology Center in patients with colon cancers at MassGeneral Health in Boston.

The study analyzed tissues from 10 patients with colon cancer and quantified the distribution of TCF-4 and CRISPRD11 in the positivity and relative lack of tumor cells in the colon.

“This study identifies a protein that may lead to targeted therapies that improve the response of a patient with colon cancer,” Sacco said by email. “The next step is to identify the patients that accumulate tumor cells during colon cancer and study their abundance and distribution properties.”