The University Record, November 2, 1992

Protein may help determine prognosis of sarcoma patients

Kallie Bila Michels
Cancer Center Public Relations

Researchers at the Comprehensive Cancer Center have identified a protein that has the potential to determine the prognosis of sarcoma patients. Paul S. Meltzer, assistant professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases and of radiation oncology, and his colleagues say the finding is especially important because it may have value in understanding other types of cancer. Meltzer’s research was reported in Nature in July.

Meltzer explains that P53—the gene most often found to be abnormal in cancers—is the “master-controlling” gene for cell growth. It serves as the “brake” on growth of normal cells, suppressing them so they don’t grow out of control and cause cancer to occur.

Meltzer and his colleagues have found a protein, MDM2, that binds to P53 and deactivates it in sarcoma patients. “It is amplified, overwhelming the braking mechanism of P53, causing cancer to occur,” he says.

“Currently we’re looking at the relevance of this finding to other cancers,” Meltzer says. “In breast cancer and other diseases where we’ve seen gene amplification, it’s turned out to be very important in determining the prognosis of a cancer patient.”

The role of MDM2 in other types of cancer patients also is determined by looking at amplified protein attached to P53.

Sarcoma is a rare cancer found in the bones and soft tissue of the body, including the muscles, connective tissues, vessels that carry blood or lymph, joints and fat.

The Comprehensive Cancer Center has a multidisciplinary sarcoma clinic for the diagnosis and treatment of this disease.

The Cancer Center was created in 1986 and is one of 28 centers in the country designated by the National Cancer Institute. It is supported by 255 faculty researchers.

Other study authors are from The Johns Hopkins Oncology Center in Maryland and the University of Pennsylvania.