Researchers have discovered that more than half of all cancerous tumors are associated with defects in a single gene — new findings they hope can lead to new strategies for targeting cancer through genetic manipulation.
Researchers believe the gene produces proteins that can either repair damaged cells or cause tumor cells to die. But when the gene is not working properly, due to a defect or mutation, the proteins that repair cells or target tumors are not produced, and the cancer grows.
The new study, led by George Thomas, identified the molecular processes that regulate the stability of p53 to keep the gene functioning properly to keep cancer cells in check.
The results, published online in the journal Cell Reports, suggest genetics play a significant role in cancer development and point the way to potential new treatments based on that the emerging scientific understanding of how tumors grow and spread.
Thomas said understanding how p53 is regulated and functions is critical as "more than 50 percent of tumors have mutations in p53."
He added: "We are currently working on the design of a clinical trial … based on activating [p53 as a] checkpoint to kill tumor cells".
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