• NCCS and SGH researchers confim p73's dual function in promoting and suppressing tumour growth
  • Research team receives $2.5 million grant for further research
  • Outcomes may include novel treatments for cancer in the future

A team of researchers from the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) and Singapore General Hospital (SGH) embarked on a study to determine gene p73’s role in promoting tumour growth.

Their study revealed and confirmed the gene’s dual functionality in the promotion and suppression of tumour growth.

Analysis... revealed a positive relationship between p73 and several pro-blood vessel forming genes found in human tumours.

The researchers found that hypoxic conditions – a condition in which cancerous tumours are deprived of oxygen – stabilise and activate the p73 gene.   This promotes efficient blood vessel formation in tumours, which supports tumour development.

“Tumours in oxygen deprived environment acquire genetic alterations that are required in order for the tumour to grow.   Our study shows the amount of p73 is elevated in tumours, and correlates with the size and growth of the tumour,” explained Professor Kanaga Sabapathy, Principal Investigator and Head of the Division of Cellular and Molecular Research at NCCS.

As the p73 gene rarely mutates in human cancers, the research has finally provided an explanation to account for the gene’s contradictory behavior in many cancers, such as breast, ovarian and gastric cancers.

Analysis of human breast and colorectal samples also revealed a positive relationship between p73 and several pro-blood vessel forming genes found in human tumours.
This has enabled the researchers to separate tumours according to their size and amount of p73 present.

“Formation of new blood vessels is an important component of many cancers.   This finding opens up exciting possibilities for new treatments,” said Professor Tan Soo Yong, Senior Consultant from the Department of Pathology at SGH.

Findings from the study were also recently published in high impact journal, Nature Cell Biology.

Professor Sabapathy, who has been awarded the inaugural National Research Foundation’s NRF Investigatorship award (Class of 2015), has also received a S$2.5m grant boost to further the research on the dual functionality of the gene.   This research opens up the possibility of developing novel treatments for cancer.