BBA - Reviews on Cancer (v.1603, #2)

Typical members of the Ras superfamily of small monomeric GTP-binding proteins function as regulators of diverse processes by cycling between biologically active GTP- and inactive GDP-bound conformations. Proteins that control this cycling include guanine nucleotide exchange factors or GEFs, which activate Ras superfamily members by catalyzing GTP for GDP exchange, and GTPase activating proteins or GAPs, which accelerate the low intrinsic GTP hydrolysis rate of typical Ras superfamily members, thus causing their inactivation. Two among the latter class of proteins have been implicated in common genetic disorders associated with an increased cancer risk, neurofibromatosis-1, and tuberous sclerosis. To facilitate genetic analysis, I surveyed Drosophila and human sequence databases for genes predicting proteins related to GAPs for Ras superfamily members. Remarkably, close to 0.5% of genes in both species (173 human and 64 Drosophila genes) predict proteins related to GAPs for Arf, Rab, Ran, Rap, Ras, Rho, and Sar family GTPases. Information on these genes has been entered into a pair of relational databases, which can be used to identify evolutionary conserved proteins that are likely to serve basic biological functions, and which can be updated when definitive information on the coding potential of both genomes becomes available.
Keywords: GTPase activating protein; Ras superfamily; Drosophila and human genome survey;

BAG-1: a multifunctional regulator of cell growth and survival by Paul A Townsend; Ramsey I Cutress; Adam Sharp; Matthew Brimmell; Graham Packham (83-98).
BAG-1 is multifunctional protein which interacts with a wide range of cellular targets to regulate growth control pathways important for normal and malignant cells, including apoptosis, signaling, proliferation, transcription and cell motility. Of particular relevance to tumour cells, BAG-1 interacts with the anti-apoptotic BCL-2 protein, various nuclear hormone receptors and the 70 kDa heat shock proteins, Hsc70 and Hsp70. Interaction with chaperones may account for many of the pleiotropic effects associated with BAG-1 overexpression. Recent studies have shown that BAG-1 expression is frequently altered in malignant cells, and BAG-1 expression may have clinical value as a prognostic/predictive marker. This review summarises current understanding of molecular mechanisms of BAG-1 expression and function.
Keywords: BAG-1; Cancer; Heat shock protein; Apoptosis; Nuclear hormone receptor;

Cancer pharmacogenomics: current and future applications by James W Watters; Howard L McLeod (99-111).
Heterogeneity in patient response to chemotherapy is consistently observed across patient populations. Pharmacogenomics is the study of inherited differences in interindividual drug disposition and effects, with the goal of selecting the optimal drug therapy and dosage for each patient. Pharmacogenomics is especially important for oncology, as severe systemic toxicity and unpredictable efficacy are hallmarks of cancer therapies. In addition, genetic polymorphisms in drug metabolizing enzymes and other molecules are responsible for much of the interindividual differences in the efficacy and toxicity of many chemotherapy agents. This review will discuss clinically relevant examples of gene polymorphisms that influence the outcome of cancer therapy, and whole-genome expression studies using microarray technology that have shown tremendous potential for benefiting cancer pharmacogenomics. The power and utility of the mouse as an experimental system for pharmacogenomic discovery will also be discussed in the context of cancer therapy.
Keywords: Cancer; Pharmacogenomic; Pharmacogenetic; Microarray; Genetic; Genomic; Polymorphism; Molecular therapeutic;

Autophagy: a barrier or an adaptive response to cancer by Eric Ogier-Denis; Patrice Codogno (113-128).
Macroautophagy or autophagy is a degradative pathway terminating in the lysosomal compartment after the formation of a cytoplasmic vacuole that engulfs macromolecules and organelles. The recent discovery of the molecular controls of autophagy that are common to eukaryotic cells from yeast to human suggests that the role of autophagy in cell functioning is far beyond its nonselective degradative capacity. The involvement of proteins with properties of tumor suppressor and oncogenic properties at different steps of the pathway implies that autophagy must be considered in tumor progression. Autophagy as a stress response mechanism protects cancer cells from low nutrient supply or therapeutic insults. Autophagy is also involved in the elimination of cancer cells by triggering a non-apoptotic cell death program, suggesting a negative role in tumor development. These two aspects of autophagy will be discussed in this review.
Keywords: Autophagy; Cell death; Lysosome; Proteolysis; Tumor progression; Tumor suppressor gene;