Health World — 05 January 2011
Scientists examine plants for answers to intestinal cancer

Scientists examine plants for answers to intestinal cancer.

Dutch scientists have gained important new insights into intestinal cancer by studying a plant.

They are investigating a disease called Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome, which is a hereditary disorder where people develop intestinal polyps which turn into malignant tumors.

“With experiments on these plants we now have a better understanding of how cancer cells react in the human body,” says Maikel Peppelenbosch, the principle investigator.
Peppelenbosch, is professor of Cell Biology at the Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, and carried out this research for Top Institute Pharma.

“A natural process such as cell division occurs in both plants and humans,” Prof. Peppelenbosch explains. “Cancer cells that sense they are getting too much food will rapidly multiply. By imitating this process in plants and studying what happens to the plant cells, we have learned a great deal about the development of Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome.”

Among other things, investigators found a protein in the plants that could be a target for a medicine. They expect the same protein (p21Rac) may also be disordered in patients with intestinal cancer. “These insights come from a very unexpected angle,” says Peppelenbosch.

According to the professor in Cell Biology, these new insights could also be used for another disease, called Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC). It is a serious, rare disease that causes tumors in children. “By imitating the disease in plants, we hope to design a specific therapy eventually,” continues Prof. Peppelenbosch.

Universities in Rotterdam, Leiden, Utrecht and Twente, and the biotech company Pepscan are all partners in this Top Institute Pharma project.

Top Institute Pharma (TI Pharma) is a public-private cooperation in which scientists and corporate entities work together on innovative, multidisciplinary research targeted toward the improvement of the development of socially valuable medicines.

The project portfolio is based on the clinical areas as described in the “Priority Medicines” report from the World Health Organization (WHO). These projects create knowledge that is important for the better, faster, and less expensive development of valuable new medicines.

For more information, please contact Ingeborg van der Heijden, communications manager of TI Pharma, by telephone at +31(0)6-4612-2482 or +31(0)71-332-2036.

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