April 16, 2018
Colon inflammation, as in ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, measurably increases colon cancer risk, but how has remained unclear. A recent paper in PNAS from the laboratory of KI member Michael Yaffe, director of the MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine, offers new insight from studies of the MK2 signaling pathway. MK2 is a protein kinase well studied by the Yaffe group for its role in chemotherapeutic resistance, but also as a key regulator of cell stress and inflammation. Using mouse models of whole body and tissue-specific MK2 deletion, as well as studies of human cancer cell lines, the Yaffe team showed that the MK2 pathway promotes colon tumor development by regulating immune cells called macrophages. MK2 drives the macrophages into a tumor-promoting state that modulates the surrounding microenvironment and enhances development of tumor-supporting blood vessels. These findings support targeted blockade of MK2 as a potential preventative strategy for high-risk patients. This work was supported in part by the Charles and Marjorie Holloway Foundation. Read more.