UAMS Cancer Researcher Obtains $1.5 Million for Study of Bone Cancer

By todd

Sanderson will lead a team of researchers studying heparan sulfate proteoglycans, molecules made by tumor cells which can regulate the ability of the tumors to grow and metastasize. The ACRC team is investigating the processes by which heparan sulfate chains are released by an enzyme called heparanase. They believe this enzyme causes heparan sulfate to activate tumor cells and stimulatetumor metastasis to bone.

Sanderson is internationally known for his research. Since he joined the UAMS faculty in 1989, he has received continuous funding for his research from the National Institutes of Health and the Arthritis Foundation. He is the Drs. Mae and Anderson Nettleship Endowed Chair in Oncologic Pathology in the UAMS College of Medicine.

Thomas J. Kelly, Jr., Ph.D., an expert in degradative enzymes, and Larry J. Suva, Ph.D., an expert in bone biology, will collaborate with Sanderson. Kelly and Suva are also members of ACRC.

During their five-year study, the researchers will focus on breast cancer and myeloma specifically, but their findings may be applicable to other cancers that invade and destroy the skeleton. The researchers believe their work will provide insight into the mechanistic process of tumor bone destruction, and may identify new therapeutic targets.

Heparan sulfate is a carbohydrate (sugar) chain that is biologically active, binding to various “effector” molecules involved in cell signaling. Heparanase is an enzyme that will break down heparan sulfate chains into much shorter chains. That produces many more molecular chains that are still biologically active. These chains can stimulate the tumor to grow and metastasize.

By preventing the breakdown of heparan sulfate, tumor growth may be inhibited. This study could help determine if any of the several heparanase inhibitors now being used in clinical trials are effective in the prevention of bone metastasis.