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A surprise 'spark' for pre-cancerous colon polyps
Date:5/14/2009

SALT LAKE CITY Researchers at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah studied the events leading to colon cancer and found that an unexpected protein serves as the "spark" that triggers formation of colon polyps, the precursors to cancerous tumors.

"Our findings will certainly raise some eyebrows," says oncological sciences graduate student Reid Phelps, first author of the study, which will be published Friday, May 15 in the journal Cell. "We expect the conventional wisdom regarding colon tumor development to be reconsidered, together with some resistance to our alternative explanation."

The study in zebrafish and human cells discovered that a protein, known as C-terminal binding protein 1, or CTBP1, was the spark that initiated colon polyp formation, not the protein beta-catenin, as previously thought. With this new information, future treatments that prevent tumor progression can be developed.

The research centered on the mutation of a tumor-suppressor gene called APC a mutation previously found to be present in 85 percent of all colon cancers. Since then, research labs around the world have developed theories about how the gene works in colon cancer development.

"Our work reveals new information about how the APC protein functions to prevent colon tumor formation. This new information opens new possibilities treating and preventing colon cancer. " says David Jones, Ph.D., a professor of oncological sciences at the University of Utah and senior director of early translational research at HCI. "We want to know what happens immediately following mutation of the APC gene mutation as a way of understanding how we might intervene. If you're trying to match therapies with a specific genetic mutation, it helps to understand the earliest steps in tumor formation, as well as the downstream consequences."

APC stands for adenomatous polyposis coli. It is classified as a tumor suppressor gen
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Contact: Linda Aagard
linda.aagard@hci.utah.edu
801-587-7639
University of Utah
Source:Eurekalert

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