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Genprex's tumor suppressor gene TUSC2 is a novel target and biomarker for thyroid cancer therapy, finds researchers

It was encouraged by studies suggesting TUSC2 may be effective in treating many cancers, including thyroid cancer

Genprex, Inc. -
The company's Oncoprex is basically a TUSC2 gene — a powerful tumor suppressor — wrapped in a cholesterol nanoparticle engineered to target cancer cells

Genprex Inc (NASDAQ:GNPX) said Wednesday that independent researchers reported in a recent study that TUSC2, a tumor suppressor gene and the active agent in Genprex’s Oncoprex immunogene therapy, is a potential target and biomarker for thyroid carcinoma. 

Published in the ‘International Journal of Molecular Sciences,’ the study found that TUSC2 overexpression decreased thyroid cancer proliferation, migration and invasion. Cell proliferation, migration and invasion ability are essential steps in tumor metastasis.

The researchers noted that “TUSC2 forced expression reduced thyroid cancer cell proliferation” and could represent “an important tool” to arrest cancer cell proliferation, while TUSC2 restoration decreased the migration and invasion of thyroid cancer cell lines.

READ: Genprex's gene therapy candidate Oncoprex targeting new approach for non-small cell lung cancer

The company said the study also found that TUSC2 “increased sensitivity” to apoptosis, a form of programmed cell death, by “increasing the SMAC/DIABLO and Cytochrome C proteins,” which play major roles in cell death. TUSC2 forced expression increased these protein levels, and, inversely, the silencing of TUSC2 induced resistance to apoptosis.

Based on the results of the study, researchers concluded that TUSC2 is negatively associated with thyroid cancer aggressiveness and, thus could be a novel target and biomarker for thyroid cancer therapy.

“We continue to be encouraged by data resulting from studies conducted at multiple research institutions suggesting that TUSC2 may be an effective treatment for many types of cancer, now including thyroid cancer,” said Genprex chairman and CEO Rodney Varner in a statement.

The authors further state that thyroid carcinoma is the most common endocrine cancer and includes many different forms. Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC) is the rarest but most lethal subtype. Conversely, papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC), the most common type of thyroid cancer, is generally characterized by good outcomes, as it is highly curable by surgery and radioiodine therapy. However, some PTC patients have an aggressive disease and can develop distant metastasis.

The same researchers have previously reported that TUSC2 is downregulated in almost all ATC samples and in the vast majority of PTC samples, suggesting TUSC2’s important role in thyroid cancer progression. In 2019, around 50,000 patients in the US were diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

Austin, Texas-based Genprex’s platform technologies are designed to administer cancer-fighting genes by encapsulating them into nanoscale hollow spheres called nanovesicles, which are then administered intravenously and taken up by tumor cells, where they express proteins that are missing or found in low quantities.

Oncoprex works partly by interrupting the cell signaling pathways that prompt cancer cells to multiply as well as controlling the immune response against cancer cells.

It is basically the tumor suppressor candidate 2 gene (TUSC2) wrapped in a cholesterol nanoparticle that is engineered to target cancer cells.

Genprex is conducting clinical and pre-clinical research to evaluate the effectiveness of TUSC2 when combined with targeted therapies and immunotherapies for non-small cell lung cancer. Existing pre-clinical data also suggest that TUSC2 may be effective against breast cancer, head and neck cancer, kidney cancer, and soft tissue sarcomas.

This new independent study raises the possibility that TUSC2 may also be used to treat thyroid cancer.

Contact the author Uttara Choudhury at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @UttaraProactive 

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