London, Apr 17 : While investigating how blood vessel growth keeps cancers alive, researchers at Western Australian Institute for Medical Research (WAIMR) have made a key discovery that may boost the chances of successfully treating life-threatening tumours.
A team of researchers, headed by Associate Professor Ruth Ganss have discovered that a gene, known as RGS5, is capable of reversing angiogenesis, the growth of blood vessels inside the tumour.
"It's the uncontrolled growth of blood vessels and the formation of abnormal blood vessels inside tumours that 'feed' them, allowing them to grow and stopping the immune system from wiping out the tumour," Nature quoted Associate Professor Ganss, as saying.
She added: "What we've shown is that RGS5 is a master gene in angiogenesis and that when it is removed, angiogenesis reverses and the blood vessels in tumours appear more normal. Importantly, this normalisation changes the tumour environment in a way that improves immune cell entry, meaning tumours can be destroyed and improving survival rates in laboratory tests."
While the majority of research deals with determining ways to block or kill tumour-feeding blood vessels, the reversal of abnormal vessel growth comes as a fresh approach to tackle angiogenesis
"We've long-suspected this research would deliver advances in knowledge about what impacts tumour growth and this publication recognises the innovation and importance of our work. By understanding what is actually going on in the tumour itself, the ultimate hope is that we'll be able to work on making current therapeutic approaches even more successful and reducing side effects of them," said Ganss.
Another study by Ganss has recently explained how tumours can be attacked by the immune system with fewer side-effects.
"This discovery involves targeting tumours with inflammatory substances that change the environment, so immune cells can attack the tumour through blood vessels more effectively and lessen the amount of toxins going elsewhere in the body," said Ganss.
The discovery is published in the most recent edition of Nature, one of the world's most prestigious scientific journals.