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    Studies reveal genes key to RCC development, growth

    Two recently published Mayo Clinic studies provide genetic clues to clear cell renal cell carcinoma that may have important therapeutic implications, researchers say.

    In a genomic analysis of clear cell RCC, researchers uncovered 31 genes that they say are key to development, growth, and spread of this most common form of kidney cancer. Eight of the genes had not been previously linked to kidney cancer, and six others were never known to be involved in any form of cancer.

    This study is a thorough analysis, because overexpressed genes were functionally tested in kidney cancer cells to ensure they were important to some aspect of the cancer process, the study’s senior investigator, John A. Copland, PhD, of Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, FL, said in a news release. Findings were published online in Oncotarget (June 12, 2014).

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    “The power of this study is that we looked at genes discovered to be overexpressed in patients’ tumors and determined their function in kidney cancer, which has not been done on a large scale before,” Dr. Copland said. “This is a seminal step in identifying key pathways and molecules involved in kidney cancer so that specific therapies that target these new genes can be developed to treat this cancer.”

    Dr. Copland and colleagues examined an equal number of samples (72) of normal kidney and kidney cancer tissues. They examined overexpression and underexpression of RNA from the tissue, as well as protein production. They found almost 6,000 genes that fit that description. The researchers isolated and tested 195 genes that are consistently elevated across patient samples. They then narrowed the “hit” list to 31 after testing each in living cancer cells to determine if these genes contributed to either growth or spread of the tumor.

    “We also found genes with other functions that are key to kidney cancer survival, such as inflammation,” said first author Christina von Roemeling. “Another found gene is linked to angiogenesis, the production of new blood vessels to support a tumor. This is a novel discovery. It is particularly important because ccRCC is well known for being a very angiogenic cancer.

    “In addition to the potential of these genes and gene products to help us design new drugs, they could also serve as biomarkers for accurate diagnosis,” she said. “It really is a treasure trove for future research on kidney cancer.”

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