Tuesday, September 12, 2023

NYU School of Dentistry finds Protein that Promotes Growth of Oral Cancer


A team of researchers at NYU School of Dentistry has identified a protein that plays a key role in the growth of oral cancer. The protein, called ORAI1, is a calcium channel that allows calcium to enter cells. When ORAI1 is activated, it can promote the growth of cancer cells and also increase the pain associated with oral cancer.

The study, which was published in the journal Science Signaling, was led by Rodrigo Lacruz, PhD, professor of molecular pathobiology at NYU College of Dentistry. The researchers analyzed tissue samples from human oral cancer tumors and healthy tongues. They found that the ORAI1 gene, which contains instructions for creating the ORAI1 calcium channel, was heavily overexpressed in the cancer tissue but not the healthy tissue.

The researchers also found that when they activated ORAI1 in human oral cancer cells, it caused the cells to grow faster and become more resistant to chemotherapy. Additionally, they found that ORAI1 activation increased the production of pain-sensing molecules in the cells.

"Our findings suggest that ORAI1 is a promising target for the development of new therapies for oral cancer," said Dr. Lacruz. "By targeting ORAI1, we could potentially slow the growth of cancer cells and reduce the pain associated with the disease."

The researchers are currently conducting further studies to explore the role of ORAI1 in oral cancer. They are also working to develop new drugs that could target ORAI1 and prevent the growth of cancer cells.

This discovery is a significant step forward in the understanding of oral cancer and could lead to the development of new treatments for the disease. The researchers are hopeful that their findings will help to improve the lives of patients with oral cancer.

In addition to Dr. Lacruz, the study's authors include Jun Son, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Lacruz's lab; and Mark A. Rubin, MD, PhD, the William J. Gies Professor and Chair of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at NYU College of Dentistry.

The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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