Cancer News Network

Cancer Awareness , Developments in Cancer Research and News on Cancer

Friday, January 12, 2007

Super powering a gene (PTEN) with enzymes can help to fight cancer

CBC News: Researchers think they have discovered how to boost one of the body's natural cancer fighters.It might be possible to superpower the gene, known as PTEN, by tinkering with an enzyme that regulates its activity, scientists report in the Jan. 12 issue of Cell.

Although they are a long way from developing an actual drug based on the discovery, the ability to manipulate the tumor-suppressor gene is "potentially a real breakthrough," said study author Dr. Pier Paolo Pandolfi, a professor of cancer biology and genetics at MemorialSloan-KetteringCancerCenter.

Pandolfi and other researchers at Sloan-Kettering and Columbia University were intrigued by the PTEN gene, which suppresses tumors by preventing "excessive proliferation [of cells] that's associated with cancers and [inducing] cells to die when they misbehave and act as a tumor," Pandolfi explained.

Essentially, the PTEN gene acts as a guard inside a cell, explained Xuejun Jiang, director of a Sloan-Kettering laboratory that studies cells. But when the gene mutates, it stops guarding cells properly.

"The consequence is that those cells might grow crazily, and when they need to die, they don't die," Jiang said.
Scientists have noticed that mutated PTEN genes seem to be connected to several kinds of cancer, including tumors in the prostate, brain and breast.

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