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Johnson Cancer Research Center

Cancer Researchers Make Big Discovery That Could Help Treat Eye & Breast Cancers

Tuesday March 9, 2010

K-STATE BIOCHEMISTRY PROFESSOR DISCOVERS LINK BETWEEN LOW OXYGEN LEVELS IN BODY AND CANCER-AIDING PROTEIN; COULD HELP TREATMENTS FOR RETINOBLASTOMA AND BREAST CANCER

What began as research into how diabetics could possibly preserve their eyesight has led to findings that could prolong the vision of children afflicted with retinoblastoma.

Dolores Takemoto, a Kansas State University professor of biochemistry who was researching protein kinase C gamma in the lens of the human eye, found her work taking a fascinating turn when she discovered a correlation between the protein Coonexin46 and hypoxia — a deficiency of oxygen which kills normal tissue cells.

According to the data, Coonexin46, or Cx46, appears in the body during these levels of low oxygen. Besides the eye, which is one of the body’s only naturally occurring hypoxic tissue, Cx46 also is present in cancer cells since the cells seal themselves off from the oxygen carried by the blood vessels, thus creating a hypoxic environment.

Takemoto believes the findings will lead to serious advancements in treating retinoblastoma, a cancer that forms in the tissue of the retina — the light-sensitive layers of nerve tissue on the back of the eye. It occurs in 300 U.S. children under the age of 5 each year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Read the article at K-State Media Relations