New way to break cancer's vicious cycle
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VIDEO: Blocking NUAK2 with drugs removes oncogenic YAP/TAZ from the nucleus and in doing so rpevents it from switching on cancer genes. view more 

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Credit: Attisano lab, Donnelly Centre, University of Toronto.

University of Toronto researchers have uncovered why some cancers grow faster than others. The team led by Liliana Attisano, Professor in U of T’s Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, has identified a protein called NUAK2, which is produced by cancer cells to boost their proliferation and whose presence in tumours is associated with poor disease prognosis. Writing in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers show that blocking NUAK2 slows down cancer cell growth raising hopes that a drug could be developed to treat patients.

“We looked at bladder cancer and found that a subset of patients have high levels of NUAK2 protein in their tumours which also happened to be high-grade tumours,” says Attisano, who is also a professor in U of T’s Department of Biochemistry.

Mandeep Gill, a graduate student in Attisano’s lab, first found NUAK2 while looking for a way to block the known cancer-promoting proteins called YAP and TAZ (YAP/TAZ). Highly active in many cancers, YAP/TAZ work by latching onto the DNA to switch

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