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New Research Finds a Common Factor Linking All Cancers

Still not a cure, but...

Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the uterus. Image from CDC.

Scientists at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute (LTRI) of Sinai Health have discovered a protein that could be key to better treating cancers of all kinds and stages.

The protein is called Yes-associated protein, or YAP for short, which is an important protein in a signaling pathway involved in the development of malignant tumors. According to Rod Bemmer, senior scientist of LTRI, all cancers are either YAP-on or YAP-off, and a cancer's YAP on-off state influences its resistance to drug treatments. Some cancers need to be YAP-on to grow, while others will terminate growth when YAP-on. YAP-off cancers are especially lethal, and jumping between states - especially from YAP-on to YAP-off - can make a cancer more treatment-resistant.

YAP affects cancer cells' treatment resistance by determining their buoyancy in solution. YAP-on cells float and YAP-off cells stick to the surface of the petri dish, which the LTRI researchers discovered in an experiment. Cell buoyancy and changes in buoyancy are known to be associated with treatment resistance. By regulating a cancer's YAP on-off state, the cancer can be made more susceptible to treatment. It's still not a cure-all for cancer, but it's a step forward.

Learn more about this amazing discovery: Joel D. Pearsone et al, Binary pan-cancer classes with distinct vulnerabilities defined by pro- or anti-cancer YAP/TEAD activity, Cancer Cell (2021).

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