Nearly 62,000 people were diagnosed with some form of kidney cancer so far in 2015, and 14,000 people are expected to die from it this year, according to the National Cancer Institute.
A new research paper by the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Rutgers found a “mechanism” connecting harmless kidney tumors and cancer which may be used to more accurately detect which tumors lead to the disease.
According to an interview between the research team and news-medical.net, 11 specific benign tumors called “renal oncocytomas” were analyzed to compare with more cancerous tumors. Two different types were discovered.
Type 1 tumors showed no chromosome loss in their genetic makeup, according to the interview. Type 2 tumors had some chromosome loss, and were found more likely to lead to a form of malignant kidney cancer.
Both types of oncocytomas showed mitochondrial mutations, according to the interview. When they deform, they are unable to produce energy like they normally do, which results in the tumor’s cells behaving improperly.
“Identifying mechanisms that restrict some tumors such as these to benign disease can inform novel approaches to cancer therapy,” according to the paper.
A large number of these malformed cell parts are found in oncocytomas, according to the research paper.
Both Type 1 and Type 2 tumors showed unusual activity with proteins in the cells as well, including adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and p53.
AMPK helps regulate the amount of energy being transferred around a cell, according to the National Institutes of Health.
The protein p53 was found to be a mechanism for cancerous cell folding, according to an article by The Daily Targum.
When the protein is mutated, or “activated,” it stops working effectively, according to the article.
The new study found a connection between p53, AMPK and the mutations with mitochondria.
No connection had been previously discovered between oncocytomas and other kidney tumors, according to the paper.
“Thus, we compared the genomic … signature of oncocytomas with (Renal Cell Carcinoma) subtypes,” according to the paper. “The pattern of gene expression in oncocytoma was clearly distinct from clear cell and papillary cell RCC.”
The differences are mainly related to p53 and the mitochondrial mutations, according to the study. Most importantly, the changes affect whether a tumor stays benign or malignant.
The results of the study suggest new methods for preventing kidney cancer are possible, according to the interview. If tumors can be kept benign, they can be more easily removed than malignant tumors.
“Mechanisms that restrict tumors to benign disease can inform approaches to cancer therapy,” according to the interview. “This also suggests that inhibiting mitochondria with (certain drugs) may have anti-cancer activity in many different cancers.”