Team Identifies Key Driver (TRPM4) of Cancer Cell Death Pathway That Activates Immune Cells

The team included, from left, research scientist Chengjian Mao, graduate student Xinyi Dai, biochemistry professor David Shapiro, graduate student Junyao Zhu, and molecular and integrative physiology professor Erik Nelson. (Photo by Fred Zwicky).
Scientists have identified a protein that plays a critical role in the action of several emerging cancer therapies. The researchers say the discovery will likely aid efforts to fine-tune the use of immunotherapies against several challenging cancers. They report their findings on July 31, 2023 in the journal Cancer Research. Former University of Illinois graduate student Santanu Ghosh, PhD, and his colleagues identified a protein that plays a key role in the action of several emerging anticancer therapies. The finding may help improve immunotherapies against solid tumors. The article is titled “Plasma Membrane Channel TRPM4 Mediates Immunogenic Therapy–Induced Necrosis.” “Most anticancer drugs cause cancer cells to shrivel up and die in a controlled process known as apoptosis. But apoptosis does not usually strongly activate immune cells,” said David Shapiro, PhD, a Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who led the research with former graduate student Dr. Ghosh. “Instead, a few emerging cancer therapies cause cancer cells to swell up and burst. The protein we identified, a sodium-ion channel known as TRPM4, is critical for cancer therapies that promote this type of cell death, called necrosis.”
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