Conventional wisdom holds that cancer cells contain so many mutations that theres no way to return them to the straight and narrow path of their normal neighbors. This has led to cancer treatments that focus on destroying or removing the cancerous cells.
But new research by Dean Felsher, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine (oncology) and of pathology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, suggests that cancer cells can be reformed. His work, published in the Oct. 10 advance online issue of Nature, could lead to new ways of treating the most common forms of cancer. Felsher found that turning off just one cancer-causing gene is enough to eliminate aggressive, incurable liver tumors in mice in just four weeks. These cells still had the mutations that made them cancerous in the first place, except that one. He had documented a similar phenomenon in bone cancer two years ago, but liver cancer is more common and difficult to cure. "This is a terrible cancer," said Felsher. "Anything that is encouraging in liver cancer may be important."
Liver cancer is formed in a type of cells called epithelial cells - the same ones that form cancers in the breast, colon and prostate. Felshers findings about liver cancer could also apply to these types of cancer. Felsher hopes his work pushes people to find drugs that specifically hamstring the protein in question: Myc (pronounced "mick"), which is one of the most commonly mutated oncogenes in cancer cells.
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