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Study uncovers enzyme's double life, critical role in cancer blood supply

Studied for decades for their essential role in making proteins within cells, several amino acids known as tRNA synthetases were recently found to have an unexpected – and critical – additional role in cancer metastasis in a study conducted collaboratively in the labs of Karen Lounsbury, Ph.D., University of Vermont professor of pharmacology, and Christopher Francklyn, Ph.D., UVM professor of biochemistry. The group determined that threonyl tRNA synthetase (TARS) leads a "double life," functioning as a critical factor regulating a pathway used by invasive cancers to induce angiogenesis – the formation of new blood vessels – and a new food supply to sustain their growth.

The teams' research was published online February 21, 2013 in Nature Scientific Reports.

According to Tamara Williams, Ph.D., first author on the study, a lecturer in nursing and postdoctoral fellow in pharmacology at UVM, cancerous tumors quickly outgrow their local blood supply. When they do, the cancer cells send out signals, TARS is secreted, and the angiogenesis process is initiated. full story

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