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April 1, 2009

Scientists Determine Why a Particular Blood Protein Is Raised in Cancer Patients

  • Blood protein ferritin binds to and cripples the ability of another blood protein called HKa to shut down blood vessel growth, according to researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. They found that this process promotes tumor growth in mice.

    “It's been known for a long time that levels of ferritin are increased in people with tumors, but it's never been understood why that happens,” remarks Suzy V. Torti, Ph.D., an associate professor of biochemistry at the School of Medicine and lead investigator of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    To determine how ferritin and HKa affected the formation of new blood vessels, the investigators injected mice with prostate cancer cells and found tumor growth. When they mixed HKa with the tumor cells, blood vessel formation was inhibited.

    When they then added ferritin to the mixture of HKa and cancer cells, the ferritin restored blood vessel formation, and tumors began to grow again. The research team says that they have begun work to develop an antitumor drug based on their findings.

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