A new study published in Nature reveals the puppet master that controls the strings of prostate cancer besides several genes that have been identified. In the study, researchers demonstrated that the puppet master SWI/SNF complex promotes access to DNA that oncogenes can combine and drive downstream exhibit of genes in cancer.
The downfall of a subunit of the complex blocks oncogenes like snapping the strings of the puppet master. The findings reveals a new approach to treat prostate cancers fueled by different genetic drivers, which together accounts for more than 90% of prostate cancers.
Meanwhile, in human cells, DNA is tightly covered around histone proteins that are referred to as chromatin. The proteins create a physical barrier to all DNA-based processes. New specialized models of protein machineries have surfaced that eat up energy and modulate the physical state of the DNA for its functional activation.
The SWI/SNF complexes work closely with DNA-joining regulatory factors named transcription factors to transmit distinct cellular identity and function.
In fact, this is the first demonstration for cancer that preventing access to chromatin can be taken up as a line of treatment for cancer. The compacting of chromatin around enhancer elements leads to blocking of transcription factors from binding to the enhancer elements that drive cancer.
Importantly, the research team examined several prostate cancer models that expressed different oncogenes. This revealed that blocking the SWI/SNF complex declined cancer cell growth and induced cell death especially in tumors triggered by androgen receptor or FOXA1. This did not have an effect on friendly prostate cells.
In the normal course of development, SWI/SNF complex is essential. Normal cells can hold on with default levels of gene transcription, but cancer cells are especially attracted to the enhancer zones. Cancer cells need access to the enhancers to lift the expression of oncogenic targets.