Researchers Uncover Key Molecular Process that Leads to Prostate Cancer Metastasis

Researchers Uncover Key Molecular Process that Leads to Prostate Cancer Metastasis
Researchers have identified a key protein, called Snail1, that appears to be crucial to the spread of prostate cancer cells, a new study shows. The finding could lead to new therapies to block these metastatic cells. Metastasis refers to the process in which cancer cells travel from the site of a tumor to secondary locations where additional tumors form. Once this happens, a patient's prognosis worsens considerably. Although the molecular mechanisms that cause metastasis are not fully understood, some features of metastatic cells are already known. For example, in order to metastasize, a cancer cell undergoes a process known as epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), in which an epithelial cell loses some of its characteristics, such as cell-to-cell adhesion, and becomes invasive and migratory. Cytokine transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) can prompt EMT by activating the Snail1 protein, but exactly how this happens had not been previously understood. In the study titled, "Pro-invasive properties of Snail1 are regulated by sumoylation in response to TGFβ stimulation in cancer," published in the journal Oncotarget, researchers identified certain protein modifications on Snail1 that affect metastasis. After being synthesized, many proteins undergo processes known as post-translational modifications (PMTs). PMTs can act to further regulate the functions performed by the protein. One such PMT is known as sumoylation, in which a small protein called S
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