Clue to Cancer in Cellular Powerhouses
As many as 30% of all cancers employ mitochondria, the powerhouses inside cells, to create an environment that is conducive to tumor growth.
Mitochondria are organelles inside human cells, and are responsible for generating the energy that the cells need to conduct their work. David F. Kashatus, from University of Virginia School of Medicine (Virginia, USA), and colleagues have discovered that many cancers - including nearly all pancreatic cancers – force mitochondria to divide unnaturally, thereby creating an environment that is conducive to tumor growth. The investigators studied tumors caused by mutations in the gene Ras, which is responsible for activating the MAP kinase pathway, and mutated in up to 30% of all cancers. The researchers observed that this cellular communication prompts mitochondria to divide in an abnormal manner, losing their normal shape and collapsing around the cell’s nucleus. Hopeful that their finding points to a promising new target for developing cancer drugs, the study authors submit that: “these data suggest mitochondrial fission may be a target for treating MAPK-driven malignancies.”
Jennifer A. Kashatus, Aldo Nascimento, Lindsey J. Myers, Annie Sher, Frances L. Byrne, Kyle L. Hoehn, Christopher M. Counter, David F. Kashatus. “Erk2 Phosphorylation of Drp1 Promotes Mitochondrial Fission and MAPK-Driven Tumor Growth.” Molecular Cell, Vol. 57, Issue 3, p537–551.