Drugs that halt WWP2 gene action could stop cancer

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Researchers have found a “rogue” gene that if blocked, could stop cancer.

The findings, from researchers at University of East Anglia, suggest finding the right drug to block the gene, known as WWP2, could halt cancer spread by keeping cancer cells dormant.

Andrew Chantry, of UEA's School of Biological Sciences says the findings could need to an entirely new generation of cancer drugs. He explains, "The challenge now is to identify a potent drug that will get inside cancer cells and destroy the activity of the rogue gene. This is a difficult but not impossible task, made easier by the deeper understanding of the biological processes revealed in this study."


The WWP2 gene is found inside cancer cells. The researchers explain the rogue gene attacks natural cancer inhibitors, known as Smads – proteins that send signals to the nucleus of cells and act as tumor suppressors. By blocking the action of WWP2, cancer could be stopped.

Dr Mark Matfield, scientific coordinator of the Association of International Cancer Research (AICR) says, This is a very exciting new discovery and a perfect example of the way that basic research into cancer can open up ways to develop new ways to treat cancer."

The new findings show an entirely new approach to treating cancer by blocking the action of the WWP2 gene is possible. The “rogue” gene was identified by researchers during their study of the natural cancer inhibitors, Smads. The researchers say drug to stop the gene and halt cancer could be developed within the next decade.

"Selective targeting of activating and inhibitory Smads by distinct WWP2 ubiquitin ligase isoforms differentially modulates TGFβ signalling and EMT"