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January 19, 2006

Scientists Find 'Unusual' Tumor-Suppressor Gene

Topics: Medicine

With all of the terrorism and health problems going on in the world, it's always refreshing to find some good news. This is a bit technical, but interesting - especially if you or someone you know suffers from lung cancer, head and neck cancer, and other cancers, as well. Among other important findings, researchers used a lung-cancer cell line (in-vitro) to show that if the active version of a gene (TCF21) is placed in tumor cells, the active gene will slow the tumor cells' growth rate.

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Researchers have identified a "new and unusual" tumor suppressor gene, TCF21, that may be important in cancers of the lung and head and neck. The gene, which is frequently lost in human malignancies, is silenced in tumor cells through DNA methylation, a potentially reversible process.

The findings might therefore lead to new strategies for the treatment and early detection of lung cancer, a disease that killed an estimated 163,510 Americans in 2005. The study could also lead to a better understanding of the molecular changes that occur in tumor cells during lung-cancer progression.

Tumor-suppressor genes are genes that normally prevent cells from growing out of control. The loss or silencing of one or more tumor-suppressor genes is believed to be an important part of cancer development.

(...) The newly discovered gene is unusual because it can alter normal epithelial cells, causing them to change to a more primitive state. Epithelial cells form the skin and line the body's passageways and hollow organs. They are also the source of the most common forms of cancer.

(...) The gene is also often silenced or lost in a variety of other cancers, including breast and ovarian cancer, melanoma and lymphoma.

(...) "The fact that this gene is silenced in many cancer types strongly suggests that it plays an important role in cancer development," says principal investigator Christoph Plass, a professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics and a researcher in the OSU Human Cancer Genetics Program.

In short, the researchers demonstrated that TCF21 is expressed in normal lung airway epithelial cells and aberrantly methylated and silenced in the majority of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas and non-small-cell lung cancers (that they analyzed).

Importantly, the researchers further demonstrated that exogenous expression of TCF21 in cells that have silenced the endogenous TCF21 locus resulted in a reduction of tumor properties in-vitro and in-vivo.

Related:
Epigenetic regulation of the tumor suppressor gene TCF21 on 6q23-q24 in lung and head and neck cancer.

DNA Methylation, Cancer Susceptibility, and Nutrient Interactions

Cross posted to NewHopeBlog

Posted by Richard at January 19, 2006 12:47 PM



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