Plant Offers Scientists New Insights Into Intestinal Cancer

By Top Institute Pharma, PRNE
Monday, January 3, 2011

LEIDEN, The Netherlands, January 4, 2011 - Dutch scientists have gained important new insights into intestinal
cancer from studying a plant. The disease is called Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome, a
hereditary disorder where people develop intestinal polyps that turn into
malignant tumors. "With experiments on these plants we now have a better
understanding of how cancer cells react in the human body," says the
principle investigator, Maikel Peppelenbosch.

Peppelenbosch, as professor of Cell Biology at the Erasmus MC in
Rotterdam, carried out this research for Top Institute Pharma. "A natural
process such as cell division occurs in both plants and humans," Prof.
Peppelenbosch explains. "Cancer cells that sense they are getting too much
food will rapidly multiply. By imitating this process in plants and studying
what happens to the plant cells we have learned a great deal about the
development of Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome."

Among other things, the investigators found a protein in the plants that
could be a target for a medicine. They expect the same protein (p21Rac) may
also be disordered in patients with intestinal cancer. "These insights come
from a very unexpected angle," says Peppelenbosch.

According to the professor in Cell Biology, these new insights could also
be used for another disease, called Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC). It is a
serious, rare disease that causes tumors in children. "By imitating the
disease in plants, we hope to design a specific therapy eventually,"
continues Prof. Peppelenbosch.

Universities in Rotterdam, Leiden, Utrecht and Twente, and the biotech
company Pepscan are partners in this Top Institute Pharma project.

About Top Institute Pharma

Top Institute Pharma (TI Pharma) is a public-private cooperation in which
scientists and corporate entities work together on innovative,
multidisciplinary research targeted toward the improvement of the development
of socially valuable medicines. The project portfolio is based on the
clinical areas as described in the "Priority Medicines" report from the World
Health Organization (WHO). These projects create knowledge that is important
for the better, faster, and less expensive development of valuable new
medicines. For more information:

    Note to editorial staff

    - The plants that form an important link in the research into intestinal
      cancer are in Rotterdam and may be viewed by appointment.

For more information, please contact Ingeborg van der Heijden, communications manager of TI Pharma, by telephone at +31(0)6-4612-2482 or +31(0)71-332-2036.

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