Authors: Daphne Boulicault, Future Science Group
Researchers from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center (DC, USA) have reported that when any four genes in the Ly6 family are overexpressed in tumors, patient outcomes (including survival) are negatively affected. Their work was published recently in the journal Oncotarget.
The team drew their conclusions from 130 published, publicly available gene expression studies in 10 solid cancers. Their work suggests that the Ly6 gene family plays a role in the continuous growth and division of cancer cells, similar to stem cells.
Geeta Upadhyay (Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center) commented: “These are remarkable findings. We believe this family of genes produces cancer that easily metastasizes, is drug resistant and very difficult to destroy.”
The current research follows on from previous work by the group on the mouse gene Sca1, which was found to be key in the stem-like metastasis of cancer cells. The team later found that the Ly6 family mapped to the same chromosomal location in humans as Sca1 in the mouse genome and that Ly6 and Sca1 were structurally similar. Therefore, they designed this study to investigate the role of Ly6 in human cancers.
“We applied bioinformatic tools to explore the clinical significance of increased Ly6 in survival outcome in multiple cancer types. Systems biology tools are critical for steering basic research to solve critical clinical challenges and identify novel signaling nodes such as this one,” explained Subha Madhavan (Innovation Center for Biomedical Informatics at Georgetown).
The group identified Ly6D, Ly6E, Ly6H, or Ly6K as genes unexpressed in normal tissue but active in multiple cancers including bladder, brain, colorectal, ovarian, cervical, lung, central nervous system, head and neck, prostate and pancreatic. These genes were also linked to poor patient outcomes in colorectal, gastric, ovarian, bladder, lung and central nervous system cancers.
“Correlation between Ly6 gene expression and poor patient survival in multiple cancer types indicate that this family of genes will be important in clinical practice — not only as a marker of poor prognosis, but as targets for new drugs,” said Upadhyay. “The cancer field makes rapid progress when researchers share data and this study, which examines the work of scores of research teams, illustrates what can be done.”
The group will continue to investigate novel agents to inhibit Ly6 gene expression.