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Saint Louis University researchers make breakthrough towards solving the cause of cancer development


Results appear January 17 in the journal Molecular Cell

A lab headed by a Saint Louis University researcher has made a major breakthrough that could lead to a better molecular understanding of cancer.

Results published today in the Journal Molecular Cell by Ali Shilatifard, Ph.D., and colleagues show for the first time how a protein known to be involved in the development of cancer functions in normal cells.

The research shows how the protein "Bre1" plays a pivotal role in determining how the protein "Rad6" functions in modification of chromosomal DNA. Also participating in this research was the lab of Dr. Mark Johnston at Washington University School of Medicine.

Dr. Shilatifard, an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, said this discovery should lead to several new promising areas of inquiry.

"This opens the door for further study of this protein in the regulation of gene expression," he said. "Once we understand the normal, we will have a better understanding of where something is going wrong."

This, in turn, could lead to ways to block the pathway and ultimately could stop cancer development, Dr. Shilatifard said.

"You can look at a cancer cell as a runaway freight train. There may be a thousand ways to stop it. You can derail it, take all the screws from its wheels or stop giving it fuel. This is one strategy for stopping it."

"Hopefully, together with other researchers, we can come up with a very strong way of stopping the train," he said.

Saint Louis University is a Jesuit, Catholic university ranked among the top research institutions in the nation. The University fosters the intellectual and character development of 11,000 students on campuses in St. Louis and Madrid, Spain. Founded in 1818, it is the oldest university west of the Mississippi and the second oldest Jesuit university in the United States. Through teaching, research, healthcare and community service, Saint Louis University is the place where knowledge touches lives. Learn more about SLU at

Matt Shaw | EurekAlert!
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