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Blocking rogue gene may stop cancer spread
London, JAN 25 (AGENCIES):
Published on 26 Jan. 2011 12:57 AM IST
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British scientists have discovered a ‘rogue gene’ which helps cancer spread around the body and say blocking it with the right kind of drugs could stop many types of the disease in their tracks.
Researchers from the University of East Anglia said their findings could lead within a decade to the development of new medicines to halt a critical late stage of the disease known as metastasis, when cancer cells spread to other parts of the body.
The culprit gene, called WWP2, is an enzymic bonding agent found inside cancer cells, the researchers explained in their study, published in the journal Oncogene Monday.
It attacks and breaks down a naturally-occurring protein in the body which normally prevents cancer cells from spreading. In tests in the laboratory, the UEA team found that by blocking WWP2, levels of the natural inhibitor protein were boosted and the cancer cells remained dormant.
Surinder Soond, who worked on the study, said it was a “novel and exciting approach to treating cancer and the spread of tumors which holds great potential.”
“The challenge now is to identify a potent drug that will get inside cancer cells and destroy the activity of the rogue gene,” said Andrew Chantry of UEA’s school of biological sciences, who led the research.
He said this was “a difficult but not impossible task” and one that would be made easier by the better understanding of the biological processes gained in this early research. Chantry said in a telephone interview the findings mean drugs could be developed in the next 10 years that could be used to halt the aggressive spread of many forms of cancer, including breast cancer, brain, colon and skin cancer.
If a drug was developed that deactivated WWP2, he said, conventional therapies such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy could be used on primary tumors with no risk of the disease taking hold elsewhere.
Dr’s 6-point advice to win cancer fight
Dr Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of the bestselling ‘The Emperor of Maladies: A Biography of Cancer’, has a six-point formula to help India control and combat the cancer epidemic. “Put in place a strong tobacco control programme, initiate sexual health education to prevent sexually transmitted cancers like cervical and oral, encourage vaccination, conduct mammography and screening of vulnerable women for breast cancer and those above the age of 50, start screening for and vaccination against Hepatitis B that causes liver cancer and create centralized systems modelled on comprehensive cancer centres in the US that allow researchers to share data and engage in high quality clinical work,” says Mukherjee.
Currently an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University, Mukherjee studied in St Columba’s School before becoming a Rhodes scholar. Calling cancer the next big frontier of medicine, Mukherjee explains cancer is not one disease but many diseases that share a common biological principle — a cell that has lost control and is dividing abnormally. “Ultimately it’s a gene that lives inside us unlike a virus. The challenge is how to kill the cancer cells while sparing the normal cells before the former invades the organs and destroys their function.”

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