To find new therapies for aggressive bladder cancer, researchers must first uncover what drives each subtype at the molecular level. That’s why the American Cancer Society has awarded a grant to study bladder cancer development to David DeGraff, assistant professor of pathology, surgery and biochemistry and molecular biology, and a member of Penn State Cancer Institute.
“If we find out which molecular factors are related to the development and prognosis of certain types of bladder cancer, we can identify patients with specific disease subtypes early. Then we could marshal resources and even identify who may benefit most from chemotherapy or other clinical treatments,” DeGraff explained. “That’s very exciting to me.”
DeGraff and his research colleagues study a set of transcription factors — proteins that decide which genes will be expressed — called the TFAP2 family and PPARG. In earlier research, DeGraff and others found that these transcription factors are linked to two subtypes of aggressive bladder cancer: basal-squamous and luminal. When TFAP2 factors are found in high levels, people are more likely to have basal-squamous bladder cancer. But when PPARG is very active, it cooperates with other factors to promote the luminal cancer subtype in patients.
“We want to
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