Monday, September 17, 2012
URMC Geneticists Verify Cholesterol-Cancer Link
For the full article go to the link below:
University of Rochester Medical Center scientists discovered new genetic evidence linking cholesterol and cancer, raising the possibility that cholesterol medications could be useful in the future for cancer prevention or to augment existing cancer treatment.
"Scientifically it is very satisfying to have data that support longstanding ideas about cholesterol in the context of cancer," Land said. "Our paper provides a rationale for cholesterol targeting as a potentially fruitful approach to cancer intervention or prevention strategies."
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance supplied in foods and made in cells throughout the body. Too much cholesterol is bad for the heart and vascular system. It is typically measured as serum cholesterol by routine blood tests.
Unlike serum cholesterol that is bound to proteins, however, cholesterol also hides inside cells. While locked inside cell membranes before it is eventually exported, cholesterol has an impact on cell growth and survival. A gene, known as ABCA1, is at the crossroads of the process that shuttles intracellular cholesterol outbound.
Several years ago while conducting unrelated experiments that were published in the journal Nature, Land and colleagues first noticed the importance of ABCA1. At that time, they identified a network of approximately 100 so-called "cooperation response genes" that mediate the action of cancer genes. ABCA1 was found among these genes and is frequently turned off in presence of other mutant cancer genes.
The proper function of ABCA1, in fact, is critical for sensing of cell stress. If ABCA1 function is lost in cancer cells, cholesterol is allowed to build up in the cells' mitochondria, or energy centers, making their membranes more rigid. This in turn inhibits the function of cell-death triggers that normally become activated in response to cell stresses, as for example cancer gene activation. Therefore, when functioning properly ABCA1 has anti-cancer activity - in the sense that by keeping mitochondrial cholesterol low it protects the functioning of cellular stress response systems and acts as a barrier to tumor formation and progression.
Land, however, urges caution and further study. Doctors do not know the appropriate statin dose for cancer prevention or treatment of cancer-related conditions. Side effects cannot be ignored either, and little research has distinguished between the responses among people who take statins.
"The link between cholesterol and cancer is clear," Land said, "but it's premature to say that statins are the answer."
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