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By amplifying cell death signals, scientists make precancerous cells self-destruct
Date:8/15/2008

laboratory conditions.

But when the scientists compared mice that were genetically predisposed to developing cancer, they found that those without the RING lived twice as long as those with it.

"Cancer cells thrive by disabling the molecular machinery that tells sick cells to die," says Steller. "By removing the RING, we wanted to see whether we would trick the machinery to turn back on. And that's what happened. Cells die more readily, making it much more difficult for cancer to be established."

Steller and his team specifically showed that the RING transfers molecular tags on caspases that label these enzymes for destruction. The more tags, the stronger the signal to save the cell from death. However, when the RING is removed, fewer molecular tags are transferred to caspases and often, the signal to save the cell from death is not strong enough. So, more cells die.

The game is not over. Several distinct IAP genes are known to exist, but which ones are important in the development of cancer has also stymied researchers. "We need to use genetics to sort out which individual IAPs contribute to tumors and which IAPS we need to target in order to cure cancer," says Steller. "This was a very big step in understanding what role IAPs play in cancer, but it isn't the last."


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Contact: Thania Benios
tbenios@rockefeller.edu
212-327-7146
Rockefeller University
Source:Eurekalert

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