Researchers from the University of Leeds and the University of Texas – MD Anderson Cancer Center involved in ovarian cancer have discovered that protein imbalance can cause cancer. This is a very rare case of cancer not originated by a genetic mutation or an epigenetic mechanism. The discovery was published in the journal Oncogene.
Plcγ1 and Grb2 are proteins that bind to FGFR2. The more concentrated one will preferentially bind to the receptor. If their levels are similar, Plcγ1 binding generates normal cell maintenance responses. But if Plcγ1 is predominant, it sets off the Akt1 pathway and eventually harmful cell proliferation. Statistic studies revealed a 40% survival rate for ovarian cancer patients with Plcγ1 and Grb2 balanced levels, and 10% for patients with elevated levels of Plcγ1.
The finding opens the door to cure some cancers by reestablishing balance at the proteome, targeting the imbalanced proteins. Another consequence is a change in prognosis practices: professionals can not rely only on genetic screens to predict cancer predisposition. On the other hand, protein imbalance can be used as a prognosis tool.