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Gene Addiction Reveals Cancer's Achilles' Heel

  June, 26 2008 8:41
your information resource in human molecular genetics

Blood cancer cells are hooked on the expression of a normal gene, according to research published online this week in Nature. Forcing them to go cold turkey could open a therapeutic window to treat disease, say the authors.

Multiple myeloma - cancer of white blood cells - can be caused by a number of different genetic mutations such that myeloma cells often respond to drugs in different ways. Despite this, Louis Staudt and colleagues have found that they could kill several different types of myeloma simply by knocking down one gene - IRF4.

IRF4 is not mutated in most cancer cells but for some reason it behaves very differently than in normal cells - by acting as a master regulator of several gene pathways central to cell survival. Reducing IRF4 gene expression by 50% was sufficient to kill myeloma cells while sparing normal cells. These findings reveal a vulnerability that could be exploited for therapy of all forms of this disease.

Author contact:

Louis Staudt (National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD, USA)
E-mail: lstaudt@mail.nih.gov

Abstract available online.

(C) Nature press release.

Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza

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