In B-cell lymphomas, a genetic defect within cancerous cells of the immune system causes them to lose their ability to die when the proper time comes. For years, scientists have explored the functions of different genes, hoping to build a better explanation for the disease. In the 02 Dec 2004 issue of Nature (Vol. 432, No. 7017, pp. 635-639), one study sheds light on the role of the BCL6 cancer gene.
Riccardo Dalla-Favera and Ryan Phan show that BCL6 curbs the action of the tumour suppressor gene p53. It does this by binding to two sites in the sequences that are normally used to start off p53 expression. With p53 put out of commission, the B cells lose their ability to respond to DNA damage, and cancer results. The study could help medical researchers come up with new cancer treatments with these genetic targets in mind.
While the findings revealed that BCL6 played a negative role in lymphomas, they also suggest that the gene might have a useful function in normal immune systems. BCL6 might help cells tolerate DNA damage at a low level to allow for the crucial genetic variation required by immune system cells.
Riccardo Dalla-Favera (Columbia University, New York, NY, USA)
Tel: +1 212 851 5273, E-mail: rd10@Columbia.edu
(C) Nature press release.
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