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.