Cancer Gene May Be Linked to Obesity

A gene known to cause cancer may also play a role in determining obesity, according to researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center.

A gene known to cause cancer, Astrocyte elevated gene-1 (AEG-1), may also play a role in determining obesity, according to researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center. AEG-1 could even be controlled with certain therapies to prevent or reverse obesity and obesity-related cancers.

In a series of papers published in Journal of Biological Chemistry and Bioconjugate Chemistry, the Massey researchers describe the creation of a novel therapy that inhibits AEG-1 and stops the growth of liver cancer cells; show that AEG-1 blocks thyroid hormone function and contributes to nonthyroidal illness syndrome; and find that AEG-1 may play a key role in regulating fat metabolism.

Devanand Sarkar, PhD, and colleagues found that the absence of AEG-1 leads to increased activity of several factors in the intestines that prevents absorption of fat. Mice without AEG-1 stay lean and live longer.

“Fatty liver is a main cause of liver cancer, so we have that direct correlation between liver cancer and obesity,” Dr Sarkar said in a statement. “This also is important because we now know that all cancers can be caused by obesity.”

In preclinical lab experiments, researchers used nanoparticles to develop a system to deliver the combination intravenously to mice with transplanted human liver cancer cells.

“What we found is that the tumor disappears,” Dr Sarkar said. “Anything delivered intravenously goes to the liver first, so the success of our experiments suggests that this might also be an effective way to treat liver cancer in human patients.”