Researchers find way to make cancer cells more mortal

Jul 16, 2010

Washington State University researchers have discovered a way to help cancer cells age and die, creating a promising avenue for slowing and even stopping the growth of tumors.

"Hopefully, we can make die like normal cells," says Weihang Chai, an assistant professor in the WSU School of Molecular Biosciences and WWAMI medical education program in Spokane. "Basically, you make the cancer cell go from immortal to mortal."

Normal cells lose a little bit of their DNA every time they reproduce as the molecule's strands lose part of their protective tips, called telomeres. Eventually, the telomeres become too short, signaling to the cell to stop replicating and growing.

But cancer cells have a mechanism to keep their from shortening, giving them a near eternal life. This is because the enzyme telomerase extends one strand of the cancer cell's DNA while other proteins help extend the second strand.

Chai and her colleagues, writing in the current issue of The EMBO Journal, say they have found a regulatory protein that controls the production of that second strand. They have also found a required to synthesize it.

If that second strand of DNA cannot be lengthened, says Chai, it behaves like a normal cell and dies a normal death. She says her team will now focus on developing a strategy to block the regulatory protein's function.

Explore further: Taking the guesswork out of cancer therapy

Provided by Washington State University

4.9 /5 (7 votes)

Related Stories

Study: Cells prevent DNA repair

Nov 23, 2005

Scientists say they've discovered cells co-opt the machinery that usually repairs broken strands of DNA to protect the integrity of chromosomes.

Understanding DNA Repair and Cancer

Dec 03, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A protein that plays a key role in copying DNA also plays a vital role in repairing breaks in it, UC Davis scientists have found. The work is helping researchers understand how cancer cells can resist radiation ...

Short chromosomes put cancer cells in forced rest

Apr 25, 2007

A Johns Hopkins team has stopped in its tracks a form of blood cancer in mice by engineering and inactivating an enzyme, telomerase, thereby shortening the ends of chromosomes, called telomeres.

New target for cancer therapy identified

Sep 21, 2006

A new target for cancer therapy has been identified by Monash University scientists investigating the cell signalling pathways that turn on a gene involved in cancer development.

Recommended for you

Taking the guesswork out of cancer therapy

2 hours ago

Researchers and doctors at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) have co-developed the first molecular test ...

Brain tumour cells found circulating in blood

3 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—German scientists have discovered rogue brain tumour cells in patient blood samples, challenging the idea that this type of cancer doesn't generally spread beyond the brain.

International charge on new radiation treatment for cancer

4 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—Imagine a targeted radiation therapy for cancer that could pinpoint and blast away tumors more effectively than traditional methods, with fewer side effects and less damage to surrounding tissues and organs.

Computer model reveals cancer's energy source

6 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—A computer model study reveals – for the first time – details of an energy-creating process vital and unique to cancer cells. The research holds promise for new interventions and for ...

User comments : 0