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Receptor may be cancer accomplice

A receptor protein that shows up on cancerous colon cells might serve as a new target for scientists seeking to derail this malignancy. A study in mice shows that shutting down the receptor slows cancer growth.

The receptor protein is called neuropilin-2 (NRP2). Earlier work hinted that it facilitates the activity of a family of proteins called vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGF), which dock onto other cell receptors. The VEGF proteins are best known for promoting signaling in blood vessel-lining cells that boost new vessel growth.

In the new study, researchers tested malignant and healthy cells taken from people with colon cancer. The cancerous cells typically produced NRP2 proteins, while nearby normal colon cells did not. Wiping out NRP2 receptors in malignant cells limited their survival in lab dish tests, says study coauthor Lee Ellis, a surgeon and cancer biologist at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

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