Dr. Anette Duensing

Dr. Anette Duensing

Members of the Life Raft Group Research Team continue to publish results of promising studies aimed at finding a cure for GIST.  The latest reflects the collaboration that guides its efforts.

A study from Dr. Anette Duensing’s lab in collaboration with Dr. Maria Debiec-Rychter that was published online in Cancer Research on June 20 describes findings that “open an opportunity for future therapeutic interventions to target the DREAM complex for more efficient imatinib responses.”

The DREAM complex is a multi-subunit complex that has recently been identified as an additional regulator of cellular quiescence.

Quiescence (also called “cell sleep”) is when cancer cells stop growing but remain, rather than being killed by treatment.  This oftentimes happens when patients are treated with imatinib.

The researchers found that by inhibiting DREAM complex formation by targeting its regulatory kinase (called DYRK1A) they were able to enhance imatinib-induced apoptosis, or cell death. In other words, by also targeting the DYRK1A kinase, treatment with imatinib is made more effective.

Dr. Duensing is with the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, and Dr. Debiec-Rychter is with the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.

While the research project was carried out in Duensing’s lab, Debiec-Rychter gave valuable support with a xenograft study (one of her specialties). Improving response to therapy is a focus of Duensing’s lab.

This highlights the cooperation among LRG Research Team members that characterizes its strategy: a team approach using each member’s expertise.

“Research team collaboration is truly crucial for my lab,” Duensing said. “It helps foster studies I could not have done myself.”

She added, “The collaboration with Maria on the mouse studies was fundamental to prove that GISTs go into quiescence not only in the lab, but in a live organism.” She also credited researchers from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for their previous work on the DREAM complex.

The research paper, whose lead author is S. Boichuk from Duensing’s lab, is titled “The DREAM complex mediates GIST cell quiescence and is a novel therapeutic target to enhance imatinib-induced apoptosis.” See here for an abstract of the article.