Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New technique identifies first events in tumor development

NIH-funded study provides insight to the earliest stages of some cancers

A novel technique that enables scientists to measure and document tumor-inducing changes in DNA is providing new insight into the earliest events involved in the formation of leukemias, lymphomas and sarcomas, and could potentially lead to the discovery of ways to stop those events.

Developed by a team of researchers at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), both parts of the National Institutes of Health, and The Rockefeller University, the technology focuses on chromosomal rearrangements known as translocations. Translocations occur when a broken strand of DNA from one chromosome is erroneously joined with that of another chromosome. Sometimes these irregularities can be beneficial in that they enable the immune system to respond to a vast number of microorganisms and viruses. However, translocations can also result in tumors.

The findings are reported in the Sept. 30 issue of the journal Cell.

Translocations can take place during the course of normal cell division, when each chromosome — a single strand of DNA containing many genes — is copied verbatim to provide genetic information for the daughter cells. Sometimes, during this process, byproducts of normal metabolism or other factors can cause breaks in the DNA.

"The cell expresses specific enzymes whose primary purpose is to repair such lesions effectively, but when the enzymes mistakenly join pieces of two different chromosomes, the cell's genetic information is changed," said Rafael C. Casellas, Ph.D., senior investigator in the Genomics and Immunity Section at the NIAMS, who led the research team along with Michel C. Nussenzweig, M.D., Ph.D., from Rockefeller.

Casellas likens the phenomenon to breaking two sentences and then rejoining them incorrectly. For example, "The boy completed his homework." and "The dog went to the vet." might become "The dog completed his homework." or "The boy went to the vet." When a cell gets nonsensical information such as this, it can become deregulated and even malignant.

Scientists have known since the 1960s that recurrent translocations play a critical role in cancer. What was unclear was how these genetic abnormalities are created, since very few of them were studied, and only within the context of tumors, said Casellas. To better understand the nature of these tumor-inducing rearrangements, the authors had to create a system to visualize their appearance in normal, non-transformed cells.

The system the teams created involved introducing enzymes that recognize and cause damage at a particular sequence in the DNA into cells from mice, thereby constructing a genome where a unique site is broken continuously. The group then used a technique called polymerase chain reaction — which allows scientists to quickly amplify short sequences of DNA — to check all the sites in the genome that would get translocated to this particular break. Using this technique, they were able to examine more than 180,000 chromosomal rearrangements from 400 million white blood cells, called B cells.

Based on this large data set, the scientists were able to make several important observations about the translocation process. They learned that most of the translocations involve gene domains, rather than the space on the DNA between the genes. They also found that most translocations target active genes, with a clear bias for the beginning of the gene, as opposed to its middle or end. The team also showed that a particular enzyme that normally creates DNA breaks in B cells dramatically increases the incidence of translocations during the immune response. This feature explains the long-standing observation that more than 95 percent of human lymphomas and leukemias are of B cell origin.

"This knowledge is allowing us to understand how tumors are initiated," said Casellas. "It is the kind of information that in the near future, might help us prevent the development of cancer."

Additional support for this work was provided by Andre Nussenzweig, Ph.D., who heads the Laboratory of Genome Integrity of NCI.

The mission of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health (NIH), is to support research into the causes, treatment, and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases; the training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research; and the dissemination of information on research progress in these diseases. For more information about the NIAMS, call the information clearinghouse at (301) 495-4484 or (877) 22-NIAMS (free call) or visit the NIAMS website at

NCI leads the National Cancer Program and the NIH effort to dramatically reduce the burden of cancer and improve the lives of cancer patients and their families, through research into prevention and cancer biology, the development of new interventions, and the training and mentoring of new researchers. For more information about cancer, please visit the NCI website at or call NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

Trish Reynolds | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia
21.10.2016 | Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg

nachricht New potential cancer treatment using microwaves to target deep tumors
12.10.2016 | University of Texas at Arlington

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>