Williams Lab Publishes Recent Cancer Research

Assistant professor Cecilia Williams and members of her lab at the UH Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling (CNRCS) have published a series of studies on cancer cell signaling. The group’s research appeared in Carcinogenesis, PLoS ONE and the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. The most recent publication on breast cancer in Carcinogenesis was co-authored by the Center’s first Ph.D. graduate, Eylem Aydogdu.

Following the successful defense of her thesis, Aydogdu learned that her dissertation “microRNA-regulated gene networks in mammary stem cell-like cells and their association with poor prognosis in breast cancer,” would be published on May 5th. The paper details the pivotal roles of microRNAs (miRNAs) in stem cell biology, differentiation and oncogenesis. The role of miRNAs, molecules involved in gene transcription, is especially relevant to breast cancer therapeutics. With the help of her lab group and fellow researchers, Aydogdu was able to identify a set of miRNAs which represent possible drug targets for breast cancer therapeutics. Carcinogenesis is a monthly multi-disciplinary journal focused on genetics and exploring carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents. The online abstract is available at http://carcin.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/05/04/carcin.bgs161.abstract.

Another publication entitled “Knockdown of SF-1 and RNF31 affects components of steroidogenesis, TGFβ, and Wnt/β-catenin signaling in adrenocortical carcinoma cells,” appeared in PLoS ONE, a peer-reviewed journal from the Public Library of Science. The Williams group, together with collaborators at the Center and the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, evaluated the role of steroidogenic factor-1 (SF-1), an orphan nuclear receptor, meaning the function of SF-1 has yet to be determined. After analyzing the data, Williams and team determined that SF-1 regulates cholesterol metabolism and steroid hormone synthesis. The researchers believe the SF-1 gene profile can be used to diagnose tumors resulting from adrenocortical carcinoma, a cancer of the adrenal glands. The full text is available online at http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0032080.

A third paper also appeared in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, which covers the latest steroids research. The publication “Estradiol-activated estrogen receptor α does not regulate mature microRNAs in T47D breast cancer cells,” detailed the role of estrogen receptor α in breast cancer cells. Data presented by Williams and team represents a significant step forward in understanding how estrogen receptors regulate miRNAs. Anne Katchy, the primary author, also was awarded a 2012 Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo Award in recognition of her achievements.

“Breast cancers are sensitive to hormones such as estrogen, which binds to and activates estrogen receptors leading to significant changes in gene expression,” explains Williams. “MicroRNAs have emerged as a major player in gene regulation and are critical to enhancing our understanding of the diagnosis and prognosis of breast cancer.”

For more details or to view the abstract, visit http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22079223.

Established in 2009, CNRCS is the focal point of the UH health initiative. Led by Dr. Jan-Åke Gustafsson, a world-renowned expert in the field of nuclear receptors, CNRCS researchers are involved in many aspects of nuclear receptor research, all focused on understanding the roles of these receptors in health and disease. CNRCS researchers are working toward the goal of finding new treatments for an array of significant diseases including cancer, diabetes and metabolic syndrome and degenerative neurologic diseases. Working from the Center's world-class labs, CNRCS researchers combine interdisciplinary research and dynamic collaboration with the Texas Medical Center and industry partners.