Scientists discover cancer-causing role of gene proteins

Sep 18, 2008

Dr. Tak Mak and scientists at The Campbell Family Institute for Breast Cancer Research at Princess Margaret Hospital have discovered the role of two "cousins" in the genetic family tree of cancer development.

The findings, published online today in the journal Genes and Development, plant the seed for a critical new branch of scientific inquiry, says Dr. Mak, principal investigator. Dr. Mak, Director of The Campbell Family Institute is also a Professor, University of Toronto, in the Departments of Medical Biophysics and Immunology.

The cousins are proteins related to the gene p53 family – the patriarch known for two decades to be the master gatekeeper that controls all cancer development. When gene p53 is defective, it loses its ability to regulate healthy cells and suppress cancer.

"Until now, we thought these cousins (TAp73 protein isoforms) were not involved in cancer. Our results prove that they are. This is fundamental to understanding every human cancer and furthering the science."

In the lab, Dr. Mak and his team challenged traditional thinking about the role of these proteins. "Before, scientists studied only whether these proteins were present or absent. We decided to study how they interact with each other and discovered that they actually have a split personality. When we turn one 'on' or 'off', the other changes behavior and becomes part of the cancer-causing process. The key is understanding the ratio of the interaction."

"The next step is to understand how the ratio affects cell division that leads to human cancer," says Dr. Mak, whose work was supported by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.

Source: University of Toronto

Explore further: Diet for your DNA: Novel nutrition plan sparks debate around data protection

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists discover how to improve immune response to cancer

Apr 26, 2009

A team of scientists at The Campbell Family Institute for Breast Cancer Research (CFIBCR) at Princess Margaret Hospital and international collaborators have discovered how to trigger an improved immune response to cancer ...

FOXO factor promotes survival of oxygen-deprived cancer cells

Dec 27, 2007

Scientists report that an evolutionarily conserved transcription factor may have both positive and negative effects on the growth of tumors, depending on whether or not the tumor cells have enough oxygen. The research, published ...

Recommended for you

New research software automates DNA analysis

Oct 20, 2014

At the core of medical research is problem-solving, which is exactly what two PhD scientists did when they set out to eliminate a common, time-consuming task performed in research laboratories around the world.

User comments : 0