University of Texas (UT) Southwestern researchers have found that an enzyme on the surface of some lung cancer cells helps feed the cancer, making it a tempting treatment target. The enzyme, transmembrane serine protease 11B (TMPRSS11B), is described in a report published in the November 20, 2018 issue of Cell Reports. The open-access article is titled “Transmembrane Protease TMPRSS11B Promotes Lung Cancer Growth by Enhancing Lactate Export and Glycolytic Metabolism.” In addition to being found in squamous cell lung cancer and prostate cancer, the enzyme also has been identified in squamous cell head, neck, and cervical cancers, said Dr. Kathryn O’Donnell (photo), Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology. Her team identified TMPRSS11B while searching for genes that can convert precancerous lung cells into malignant cells that can form tumors. “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. The researchers noticed that the enzyme was expressed at increased levels in human squamous cell lung cancers – a common type of non-small cell lung cancer – and that suppressing the levels of TMPRSS11B through gene editing or RNA interference reduced tumor growth in mouse models, she said. The research focused on TMPRSS11B’s ability to encourage the movement of lactate, a byproduct of cell metabolism long thought to be a waste product. Ground-breaking research last year from UT Southwestern Professor Dr. Ralph DeBerardinis’ laboratory found that, in fact, lactate provides fuel for growing tumors.
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