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  • Researchers may have found a new drug target for endometrial cancer

    Author: AAP

Researchers may have found a new drug target for endometrial cancer, after the discovery of a protein released by fat cells that drives growth of the disease.

Australian researchers have for the first time uncovered a reason to explain why there is a strong link between obese women and endometrial cancer.

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A study at the University of Newcastle's Hunter Medical Research Institute has identified a protein that drives the growth of the cancer cells.

The protein called VEGF is released by fat cells which send a signal to endometrial cells to proliferate, says lead researcher Associate Professor Pradeep Tanwar.

"When you have too many cells, you have cancer," said Prof Tanwar.

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The discovery has raised hope of a potential new drug target.

"Now we have to look for drugs that can target VEGF and interrupt the communication cycle in order to maintain healthy uterine function in obese women," said Prof Tanwar.

"We are also planning to examine how obesity prevention steps can be helpful in reducing the risk of endometrial cancer."

Current statistics show that 57 per cent of women who develop endometrial cancer are obese, yet the mechanism for this strong association has been unclear.

To investigate the impact excess weight has on the development of endometrial cancer, researchers gathered fat tissue samples from weight-loss surgery patients and added those cells to tumour cells.

The study, published in the journal Molecular Cancer Research, found increased fat levels had a direct correlation with elevated VEGF protein expression.

"VEGF is a major driver for the growth of new blood vessels and plays a pivotal role in cell proliferation," said Prof Tanwar.

"We proved that in both patient samples and laboratory models."

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