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Missing Puma reveals cancer conundrum
Date:7/31/2010

lare Scott and Professor Jerry Adams, is published in today's issue of the international journal Genes and Development.

Crucial to the team's research was an understanding of what happens to mice exposed to radiation when a gene called Puma is missing. "If normal mice (which have the Puma gene) are given a low dose of radiation it destroys around 80 per cent of the white blood cells," Professor Strasser said. "That does not kill the mouse but it does mean the stem cells in the bone marrow have to work extra hard to replenish the blood system. This can lead to the formation of tumours of white blood cells, called leukaemias, if the stem cells doing the repopulating have cancer-causing mutations.

"The surprise was that mice that don't carry the Puma gene are protected from this type of tumour development. Puma is essential for the death of cells that have damaged DNA. If mice don't have the Puma gene when they receive low doses of radiation the white blood cells are not destroyed, so you don't force mutated stem cells to become activated (and divide) to replenish the blood system."

Professor Strasser said the research suggested that the risk of cancer was increased in people who experienced cycles of tissue destruction followed by tissue re-population by stem cells. "Such cycles may account for the liver cancers frequently associated with viral (hepatitis C) infection or alcohol-related liver damage." The research also helps explain the so-called secondary cancers that sometimes arise in patients who were cured of their primary cancer by chemotherapeutic drugs that cause DNA damage."

The findings will also inform the ongoing development of a new class of anti-cancer drugs called BH3 mimetics. These drugs are designed to kill cancer cells. "Chronic exposure to such drugs could lead to the death of large numbers of normal cells that would then need to be replaced," Professor Strasser said. "In certain circumstances this could p
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Contact: Penny Fannin
fannin@wehi.edu.au
61-393-452-345
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2 3

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