The Hormel Institute

Liver cancer breakthrough at The Hormel Institute

Scientists discover protein’s role in creating a tumor-promoting microenvironment

May 3, 2019 (Austin, Minnesota) – Science is one step closer to eliminating cancer growth in the liver, whether from primary liver cancer or from metastatic tumors from cancers in other areas of the body, thanks to new research published by Dr. Ningling Kang, head of the Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis lab at The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota.

The newly published article in Hepatology, “P300 Acetyltransferase is a Cytoplasm-to-Nucleus Shuttle for SMAD2/3 and TAZ Nuclear Transport in TGFβ-stimulated Hepatic Stellate Cells,” describes the importance of a protein that helps make the liver a good environment for tumor growth.

Tumor nodules are similar to organs consisting of multiple cell types and proteins.  In tumors growing in the liver, cancer cells communicate with hepatic stellate cells, which are liver resident cells. Through recruitment of the cancer cells, hepatic stellate cells integrate into the tumor mass to become tumor-promoting myofibroblasts. The study of Dr. Kang’s group identified that a nuclear protein called p300 is required for the TGF-beta induced transition of hepatic stellate cells to tumor-promoting myofibroblasts.   

“Hepatic stellate cells create a microenvironment that helps cancer cells to implant and grow in the liver. Our new finding supports p300 as a promising target to block cancer/liver communications and cancer growth in the liver,” shares Dr. Kang

Liver cancer rates have increased in recent years, with the number of new cases tripling since 1980. Liver metastases are cancers that have spread to the liver from another place in the body. Almost any cancer can metastasize in the liver. In the United States, liver metastasis is more common than primary liver cancer and is a major cause of death of cancer patients.

The Hormel Institute is dedicated to finding new and better answers to cancer, including discoveries that might stop cancer before it metastasizes or even becomes a tumor. The Hormel Institute’s research aims to prevent and better control cancer so people live longer, healthier lives, uninterrupted by cancer.

Dr. Kang’s article was written in collaboration with researchers from Mayo Clinic, 1st Affiliated Hospital of Xi’an Jiaotong University, 6th Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University, and Zhejinag provincial People’s Hospital in China, along with researchers in Dr. Kang’s lab at The Hormel Institute and Dr. Rendong Yang, leader of the Cancer Genomics lab at The Hormel Institute, and his lab.

About The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota

The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota is a leading cancer research department of UMN and part of the Masonic Cancer Center, an NCI Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Collaborative research partners with Mayo Clinic, Zhengzhou University, MD Anderson, Columbia University, University of Arizona and more renowned centers worldwide, The Hormel Institute tripled in size in 2008 and again doubled in size in 2016.  Currently the faculty and staff are comprised of 130 leading cancer research scientists and 14 cancer research sections. Over the next few years, The Hormel Institute UMN will add another 130 new faculty and staff jobs as part of its expansion as it continues to perform world-class research in the quest to prevent and control cancer.

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