Stem cell activity may play role in testicular cancer

December 16, 2005

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have discovered that the activity of several embryonic stem cell genes is elevated in testicular cancer, providing some of the first molecular evidence of a link between embryonic stem cells and cancer.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have discovered that the activity of several embryonic stem cell genes is elevated in testicular cancer, providing some of the first molecular evidence of a link between embryonic stem cells and cancer. The finding suggests that the genes, known as OCT4, NANOG, STELLAR, and GDF3, may play a role in the development of tumors or serve as markers of tumor progression.

Previously, the team, led by Amander Clark, PhD, had found that the expression of the genes was elevated in two samples of seminomas. The current study demonstrated that the four genes had elevated expressions in the nine seminoma samples examined, compared with normal testis tissue. The gene GDF3 was elevated in 90% of cases, OCT4 in 56%, and NANOG and STELLAR in 33%.

The team also examined the relative expression of these genes and four other genes that play an important role in normal testis in the nine samples. OCT4 and NANOG were the highest expressed genes in each of the seminoma samples.

The variability of the genes may indicate potential for the tumors to metastasize, the researchers said.