Researchers pinpoint a protein that may predict untreatable kidney cancer

Scrabble pieces spelling out kidney cancer
Graphic courtesy of the National Institutes of Health Image Gallery

A team of researchers confirmed the role of a certain protein in the development of high-grade kidney cancer. They also showed that a higher level of the protein can be used as a marker to predict which tumors will develop treatment resistance and progress more rapidly.

Dharam Kaushik, MD, led the study published May 31 in the Journal Translational Research.

Dr. Kaushik is an associate professor of urology in the Long School of Medicine. He also is a genitourinary oncologic surgeon at the Mays Cancer Center.

Four-panel illustration of kidney cancer
Kidney cancer infographic by Daniel Rosini, courtesy of the National Institutes of Health Image Gallery

“About 30% of patients with kidney cancer are not diagnosed until their cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Metastatic disease is notoriously resistant to current targeted therapies. In 2018, there were about 403,262 new cases of kidney cancer and 175,098 related deaths worldwide. Therefore, there is an urgent unmet need for developing new tools to predict which cancers will develop into high grade that are resistant to treatment,” Dr. Kaushik said.

In previous preclinical and animal studies the researchers proved that the protein — nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) oxidase-4 (Nox4) — often called Nox4, was involved in promoting the more serious cancer.

In the current study, the researchers studied the treatment records of 350 patients who had kidney cancer between January 2013 and June 2016.

Their results showed that Nox4 also concentrates in the nucleus of human kidney cancer cells. The findings were bolstered by a series of statistical analyses using clinical data of patients who survived or died from kidney cancer.

The combined results suggest that nuclear Nox4 expression may be an independent marker of disease progression and poor survival in patients with high-grade, advanced-stage kidney cancer.

Read the full news release.

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