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: Team identifies source of most cases of invasive bladder cancer

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

Cancer stem cells linked to drug resistance

14 hours ago

Most drugs used to treat lung, breast and pancreatic cancers also promote drug-resistance and ultimately spur tumor growth. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered ...

Unraveling the 'black ribbon' around lung cancer

Apr 17, 2014

It's not uncommon these days to find a colored ribbon representing a disease. A pink ribbon is well known to signify breast cancer. But what color ribbon does one think of with lung cancer?

User comments : 0

More news stories

Cancer stem cells linked to drug resistance

Most drugs used to treat lung, breast and pancreatic cancers also promote drug-resistance and ultimately spur tumor growth. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered ...

Poll: Big Bang a big question for most Americans

Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But they have more skepticism than confidence in global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and have the most trouble believing a Big Bang created the universe 13.8 ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.