Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Interwoven Pathways
04 August 2016

Interwoven Pathways

There’s a host of proteins in our cells that belong to signalling pathways – cascades of proteins that trigger biochemical events. One kind called ERK transmits signals from receptors on the cell’s surface to the DNA in the cell’s nucleus, playing a crucial role in instructing cells to multiply and divide. When this pathway is over-activated, cells multiply uncontrollably, and cancer growth can occur. In some patients with colorectal cancer, defects in the ERK1/2 pathway have been found to stimulate tumour growth. While trying to find a way to block this pathway, researchers discovered that an alternative pathway, ERK5, appeared, allowing cancerous cells to continue dividing and spreading – pictured on the right with green fluorescence showing disorganised intestinal cell proliferation when the ERK1/2 pathway is blocked (compared with normal, organised cell growth on the left). This is vital knowledge that could lead to more effective treatments for colorectal cancer patients.

Written by Katie Panteli

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