Molecular roadmap boosts fight against endometrial cancer

A study published in Cell provides an unprecedented look at the dozens of molecular steps that occur to bring about endometrial cancer, commonly known as uterine cancer. The research conducted at Baylor College of Medicine, NYU Grossman School of Medicine, the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Washington University in St. Louis, offers insights about how physicians might be able to better identify which patients will need aggressive treatment and offers clues about why a common treatment is not effective with some patients.

The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, also suggests a potential role for already-approved drugs that target proteins called CDK12, SMARCA4 and PML in other types of cancer. Dr. Bing Zhang, professor in the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center and the Department of Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor, is one of five corresponding authors.

“This work contributes to the personalized medicine we need to deliver for patients who have endometrial cancer,” said Zhang, a member of the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center, a Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) Scholar and a McNair Scholar at Baylor. “Such work will help us to know which patients will benefit most from which therapies.”

The team studied 95 uterine tumors as well as 49 normal uterine tissue samples. Scientists measured the abundance and modifications of molecular players, including DNA, messenger RNAs, circular RNAs, micro RNAs, proteins, and evidence of what scientists call “post-translational modifications.” These modifications, including phosphorylation and acetylation, are key to determining when and where proteins, the molecular workhorses of every cell, are on or off. Altogether the team took more than 12 million measurements.

/Public Release. View in full here.