In JAMA this week, researchers in the UK and Austria present data from a 15-year follow-up of a study on the association between telomere length and cancer incidence and mortality. Beginning in 1990, the team evaluated telomere length in study participants. During the follow-up years, 137 of 787 participants were diagnosed with cancer and 62 died from cancer. Incidence rates of cancer in the longest, middle, and shortest telomere length tertiles were 5.9 percent, 16.9 percent, and 22.8 percent, respectively, the authors write. "This 15-year follow-up corroborates our previous findings that short telomeres are associated with cancer incidence and cancer mortality," the researchers say. "The stronger associations for usual telomere length underscore the importance of telomere dynamics in carcinogenesis and the need for multiple measurements of telomere length in the characterization of individual cancer risk."
Also in JAMA this week, a Lab Report by Tracy Hampton highlights work recently published in PNAS on how mild hyperthermia can be used to boost the efficacy of certain cancer therapies. Hyperthermia blocks a DNA repair pathway that protects tumor cells from radiation, and increased temperatures can cause the degradation of the BRCA2 protein — which is involved in the repair pathway — allowing radiation and chemotherapy to break down the tumor more effectively, Hampton says. The PNAS study suggests that PARP-1 inhibitors — which target cancers with inactive BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes — could be supplemented with hyperthermia treatment to improve their efficacy.
In a second Lab Report, Hampton says work recently published in Science Signaling suggests that the αE-catenin protein is important for preventing squamous cell carcinoma. The researchers found that αE-catenin controls the activity of the Yap1 protein, and that when αE-catenin is present, it prevents Yap1 from entering the cell nucleus and causing tissue growth, which Yap1 does when unregulated. "They also found that cells lacking αE-catenin had Yap1 in the nucleus, and that in human squamous cell carcinoma tumors, there was an inverse correlation between αE-catenin abundance and Yap1 activation," Hampton adds.