Researchers Identify Enzyme that Helps Lung Cancer Grow

O’Donnell’s research could develop a new way to fight lung cancer while reducing side effects (Courtesy of: UT Southwestern).

Researchers at UT Southwestern have found an enzyme that removes lactate from lung cancer cells, promoting the cancer’s growth.

Led by Dr. Kathryn O’Donnell, the research was published in the journal Cell Reports. The enzyme is called transmembrane serine protease 11B (TMPRSS11B), and scientists were able to suppress the enzyme through gene editing and RNA interference to reduce tumor growth in mice.

“In this study, we found that the enzyme strongly promoted the growth of certain types of lung cancer cells. We uncovered a new mechanism that expands our understanding of how cancer cells reprogram their metabolism to provide energy for rapid growth as they form tumors,” Dr. O’Donnell said via release.

The enzyme helps move the lactate, and last year UT Southwestern Professor Dr. Ralph DeBerardinis found that lactate is fuel for growing tumors. Most healthy cells lack TMPRSS11B, so targeting the protein might not have as significant side effects in cancer patients.

“In addition to providing fuel, it is thought that lactate can suppress the immune system. Investigating whether this enzyme can influence the immune system’s ability to attack tumors will be an important direction for future research,” Dr. O’Donnell said via release.

O’Donnell was assisted in authoring the study by Dr. Luc Girard, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology in the Hamon Center for Therapeutic Oncology Research; Dr. Prashant Mishra, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at CRI and in the Cecil H. and Ida Green Comprehensive Center for Molecular, Computational, and Systems Biology at UT Southwestern; research scientist Dr. Chendong Yang; Jessica Sudderth, a senior research associate; Carla Rodriguez-Tirado, a graduate student; Instructor Dr. Xiaorong Zhou; as well as former graduate student Dr. Pei-Hsuan Chen and former research scientist Dr. Mahesh Padanad.

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