A protein called NUMB has a crucial role in keeping breast cancer at bay. New research in Nature shows how this protein acts to preserve the function of p53, another protein that is known to protect against cancer.
It is already known that many cases of breast cancer are characterized by the loss of the NUMB protein, which normally functions to help determine how different cell types develop. Now, researchers led by Pier Paolo Di Fiore describe how NUMB helps to stave off cancer by binding to p53 and a third protein, HDM2, which usually degrades p53 and prevents its cancer-busting activity.
By protecting p53 in this way, NUMB is itself acting as an anti-cancer protein, say the researchers, who made their discovery by studying a range of different cells in the test tube, including human breast cells. This is highlighted by the fact that cancers that feature abnormally low levels of NUMB tend to be particularly aggressive, they add.
Pier Paolo Di Fiore (The FIRC Institute for Molecular Oncology, Milan, Italy)
(C) Nature press release.
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