The protein serglycin is associated with brain tumour prognosis


Several factors affect the growth of tumours and cancer progression, for instance cells and substances that are present around the actual tumour cells in a tumour. In a recent study led by Elena Chugunova at IGP the researchers show that increased expression of the protein serglycin is associated with progression of the severe brain tumour form glioma and that it could be used as a biomarker for disease prognosis.

A tumour does not only contain cancer cells, there are also other types of cells and various elements around the cells that make up a microenvironment in the tumour. This tumour microenvironment influences tumour growth and metastasis, and can help the tumour cells escape the body’s immune defence.

“In the severe brain tumour form glioma, the tumour microenvironment consists of a complex network of different cell types, substances produced by the cells and an extracellular matrix containing proteins and sugars. We have studied the protein serglycin, which has previously been found to have higher expression levels in some aggressive cancer forms, to determine its role in glioma,” says Elena Chugonova.

The researchers analysed a database with information from 540 glioma patients to see both how much serglycin was expressed in the tumour and how long the patients had survived. They found a clear correlation between the serglycin expression and disease prognosis.

“We could see that in patients with a shorter survival there was a higher serglycin expression in the tumour than in patients with a longer survival. There was also an association between serglycin expression and tumour grade. In high-grade tumours, that are more severe, serglycin expression was higher than in low-grade tumours,” says Elena Chugunova.

One of the cells types found in the tumour microenvironment is mast cells, a kind of immune cell. The IGP researchers have previously shown that the number of mast cells in the tumour can be correlated to the glioma tumour grade. A common protein in mast cells is serglycin and a hypothesis is that serglycin is involved in mediating interactions between tumour cells and the microenvironment.

“Our results showed a positive correlation between mast cell number and serglycin expression in glioma tissues, indicating that mast cells are a major serglycin source. When we co-cultivated mast cells and glioma cells the expression of serglycin increased and we believe that this could stimulate tumour cell growth. An increased understanding of the mechanisms behind the interactions between the tumour cells and serglycin and mast cells in the tumour microenvironment could promote the development of new treatment opportunities for glioma patients,” says Elena Chugunova.

The study is a collaboration with researchers in Uppsala, Umeå, Gothenburg and Cardiff, UK. The results have been published the the journal Oncotarget.

More information:
Paper in Oncotarget
Elena Chugunova’s research