Scientists have uncovered a complex network of genes involved in the conversion of normal cells to cancerous ones - potentially opening up a range of new strategies for developing drugs to tackle the disease.
The research, described in Nature by Michael Green and his colleagues, investigates the changes that are needed to make cells cancerous. Cancer cells' runaway growth arises partly from the 'silencing' of certain genes. In this study, cultured cells that have the same genetic changes as cancer cells in the body were screened for genes necessary to silence another gene Fas, which in healthy tissues ensures that cells die off when necessary, rather than growing out of control, and is silenced by Ras. They identified 28 genes, termed 'Ras epigenetic silencing factors', with a range of different functions; these genes comprise a common pathway that suppresses expression of Fas.
Michael Green (University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA, USA)
(C) Nature press release.
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