Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A cancer gene causing tumours by a ‘double-whammy’ mechanism also reveals the key to a cure

21.01.2004


Scientists at the Babraham Institute have discovered that a tiny change in a protein involved in cell survival is responsible for abnormal cell activity in the early stages of cancer.



The protein, known as Bcl-xL, normally protects cells from dying; and when the DNA in cells becomes damaged, Bcl-xL is modified so that it no longer keeps the cells alive. Hence, the cells with damaged DNA usually die, so preventing them from becoming cancer cells.

However, in the presence of a particular cancer gene, the usual modification of Bcl-xL following DNA damage doesn’t occur, so cells with DNA damage are kept alive, resulting in cancer.


The discovery, described in an article in Cancer Cell published today (19 January), was made by Dr Rui Zhao, working in Dr Denis Alexander’s research group at the Babraham Institute, Cambridge. Sharp-eyed Dr Zhao noticed that the tiny change in Bcl-xL that normally occurs after exposing cells to radiation no longer happened when the particular cancer gene was present. “The cancer model that we’re working on is T cell lymphomas”, Dr Alexander explains, “but it’s quite likely that this mechanism could be relevant to other types of cancer as well - 24,500 people in Britain every year are diagnosed with a cancer of the blood”.

Intriguingly, the cancer gene being studied at the Babraham Institute (a hyperactive tyrosine kinase) acts by a ‘double-whammy’ mechanism. In the first instance, it inhibits the rapid repair of DNA damage that often occurs as cells divide. Therefore DNA damage quickly begins to accumulate in cells containing the cancer gene. Additionally, the cancer gene prevents the cells with damaged DNA from being eliminated, so leading to cancer. “It is quite likely”, says Dr. Alexander, “that if only one of these mechanisms were taking place, there would be no cancer. It’s when both occur simultaneously, the ‘double-whammy’, that the catastrophe happens”.

Understanding how the cancer gets going in the first place might eventually lead to novel cancer therapies. Dr. Alexander’s group has also shown that the critical modification of Bcl-xL, prevented by the cancer gene even before the cancer gets started, also remains blocked in tumours even when they’ve been exposed to reagents used in chemotherapy. “If we could find a way of averting this blockade”, Dr. Alexander comments, “then the power of Bcl-xL in keeping tumour cells alive would be destroyed, and the tumour would either spontaneously die or would at least become more sensitive to chemotherapy or radiotherapy”.

“We are delighted to see such breakthroughs in cancer research”, the Director Dr. Richard Dyer commented, “as this highlights the commitment of the Institute to investigate the basic biological mechanisms that underlie disease”.

Emma Southern | alfa
Further information:
http://www.babraham.ac.uk/news_events/index.htm

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Building blocks for new medications: the University of Graz is seeking a technology partner
19.03.2019 | Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz

nachricht Scientists find new approach that shows promise for treating cystic fibrosis
14.03.2019 | NIH/National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

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: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

Im Focus: Revealing the secret of the vacuum for the first time

New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum

For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...

Im Focus: Sussex scientists one step closer to a clock that could replace GPS and Galileo

Physicists in the EPic Lab at University of Sussex make crucial development in global race to develop a portable atomic clock

Scientists in the Emergent Photonics Lab (EPic Lab) at the University of Sussex have made a breakthrough to a crucial element of an atomic clock - devices...

Im Focus: Sensing shakes

A new way to sense earthquakes could help improve early warning systems

Every year earthquakes worldwide claim hundreds or even thousands of lives. Forewarning allows people to head for safety and a matter of seconds could spell...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Levitating objects with light

19.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

New technique for in-cell distance determination

19.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Stellar cartography

19.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>