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Pioneering research to discover how a gene normally responsible for growth in unborn babies, ...

04.10.2006 linked to certain cancers, is being carried out by a leading scientist in Cambridge.

Dr Adele Murrell has been awarded a grant from AICR (the Association for International Cancer Research) to study the strange behaviour of a gene called IGF2.

She explains: “We know that if this gene is over-active in the embryo, it results in overgrowth and can cause a rare but distressing syndrome that can lead to certain childhood cancers. Over-activity of the gene has also been reported in many adult cancers, including breast and bowel cancer.

“ Normally, we inherit two copies of our genes, one from our mother and the other from our father. Some of our genes, including IGF2, have the ability to remember their origin. We call this ‘imprinting.’ In the developing embryo, it is only the paternal IGF2 gene – the one from the father – that is active. However, it is the maternal IGF2 gene that can sometimes become active in adult cells and lead to the formation of a cancer.”

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Scientists have discovered that imprinting is caused by subtle chemical changes to the structure of the DNA or the proteins associated with it. Now, with AICR support, Dr Murrell will investigate further proteins involved with the imprinting of the IFG2 gene to find out how this system is involved when this gene causes cancer.

Dr Mark Matfield, AICR’s scientific adviser believes the work may have significant implications for treating the disease in the future. “Imprinting is a way of turning specific genes on or off. Since problems with gene structure or activity are the fundamental cause of cancer, turning those ‘rogue’ genes off could be the basis of a new method of treatment.”

Derek Napier, AICR's Chief Executive says the grant awarded to Dr Murrell has been given in line with the charity's policy of funding the most exciting and novel approaches to research worldwide. " We believe it important to fund work that pushes the boundaries and Dr Murrell and her team are charged with tackling one of the greatest scientific challenges of all.”

Susan Osborne | alfa
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