Cholesterol linked to cancer pathway

15 July 2014 

Many people know that cholesterol can have a negative impact on health, especially if the person is also overweight. However, new research suggests that cholesterol could also have a link to the development of cancer.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) have conducted a study that suggests it is key in the activation of a cellular signalling pathway that has been linked to cancer.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, focused on the canonical Wnt pathway, which promotes cell growth and division and is most active in embryonic cells during development. Overactivity of this signaling pathway in mature cells is thought to be a major driver in the development of cancer.

Professor Wonhwa Cho, principal investigator of the research, found a binding site for cholesterol on a protein called Dishevelled, which plays a role in cell movement and organisation. 

Dishevelled acts like a switch and determine whether a signal is directed along either the canonical or non-canonical Wnt pathway. The researchers found that when cholesterol is bound to Dishevelled, the signal continues along the canonical Wnt signalling pathway. 

Professor Cho said this finding could help explain why elevated cholesterol increases cancer risk, and presents potential new targets for cancer treatment and prevention.

Posted by Jeanette Royston



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