Italian researchers have established a genetic mechanism for the long-sought-after link between cancer and blood clotting disorders, a result that might point to therapies for certain invasive cancers.
As early as 1865, doctors observed that certain blood clotting disorders serve as warning signs of occult malignancies (which lack easily detectable symptoms), but the molecules underlying this association were unknown. Now Carla Boccaccio and her colleagues report in the 17 March 2005 issue of Nature (Vol. 434, No. 7031, pp 396-400) that the human cancer-causing MET gene triggers both tumour development and blood clotting problems in mice.
The team genetically engineered mice so that they could switch on MET expression in adult mouse liver cells. When they activated the gene, it triggered slowly progressing tumours, preceded by numerous blood clots in veins and fatal internal haemorrhages. The authors show that MET boosts the levels of key enzymes involved in blood clotting, including plasminogen activator inhibitor type 1 (PAI-1) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2).
Carla Boccaccio (Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment, Torino, Italy)
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