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EGFR network is key pathway controlling cancer cells survival and growth in CRC

Tue, 01/28/2020 - 12:17
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An international consortium of researchers from Australia, Ireland, the UK, Europe and Canada, has painstakingly mapped an intracellular network that could open the door to discovering new targeted treatments for colorectal cancer. The team focused on interactions between proteins along what's called the EGFR network. They performed more than 1100 analyses, mapping more than 6000 protein interactions.

"Like flight maps or social networks, these cellular networks involve a complex series of interactions generating an enormous number of potential pathways," said Professor David Lynn, an EMBL Australia Group Leader at SAHMRI and Flinders University, jointly led the study with Professor Walter Kolch at University College Dublin in Ireland. "The EGFR network is the key cellular pathway that controls how cancer cells survive and grow in colorectal cancer. Our team was particularly interested in how this network is rewired within particularly nasty colorectal cancer cells that contain a mutated protein called KRAS."

The research, ‘Extensive rewiring of the EGFR network in colorectal cancer cells expressing transforming levels of KRASG13D’, Nature Communications, indicates the web of interactions is substantially altered within those cells.

"You can think of it like the effect of closing a major airport would have on international flight networks - flights would have to be diverted via different routes," he says. “Colorectal cancer patients are often treated with drugs that block this pathway but unfortunately up to 40 percent of patients develop a mutation in the KRAS protein. The mutation causes this network to remain 'on' the whole time, making their cancer resistant to this drug treatment."

While the altered pathways explain drug resistance, researchers hope they also reveal new vulnerabilities.

"We desperately need new therapeutic options to treat KRAS mutant colorectal cancer," he concluded. “The most significant changes we saw involved proteins that were predictive of colorectal cancer patient survival. This suggests that these proteins are really important in colorectal cancer and further research is now need to understand whether drugs to target these changes can be developed.”

To access this paper, please click here