New Tumor Markers (p21 & mTOR) for Prognosis of Head and Neck Cancer; p21 Stabilized by Increased mTOR Activity

Head and neck cancers include a heterogeneous group of tumors located in the oral cavity, pharynx, and larynx. Despite therapeutic progress, the survival rate of patients with this pathology has hardly improved in the last decade. Many researchers are focusing on understanding the molecular biology of these tumors to improve their prognosis and treatment. “One problem is the stratification of patients, which in many cases is limited to a clinical classification, not a molecular one,” argue Dr. Susana Llanos and Dr. Juana M. García-Pedrero, authors of the study from the Tumor Suppression Group of the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) and from the Central University Hospital of Asturias (HUCA), respectively. These researchers have analyzed more than 270 biopsies of patients with head and neck cancers, and have found that about half of them show high levels of the p21 protein, as well as mTOR activation. This research project, directed by Dr. Manuel Serrano, Head of the Tumor Suppression Group and Director of the CNIO's Molecular Oncology Program, has found that the presence of p21 is closely linked to the activity of mTOR and that both markers predict a less aggressive evolution of the disease. In the future, patient classification based on these markers could allow physicians to choose the best therapeutic option for each group. The conclusions were published online on February 2, 2016 in an open-access article in Nature Communications. The article is titled “Stabilization of p21 by mTORC1/4E-BP1 Predicts Clinical Outcome of Head and Neck Cancers.” The researchers have also unraveled the molecular mechanism by which p21 levels are linked to the activity of mTOR. In particular, when the mTOR protein is inactive, it dictates the degradation of p21, and, conversely, when mTOR is active, p21 becomes stable.
Login Or Register To Read Full Story