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Cancer cells' DNA repair disrupted to increase radiation sensitivity
Date:12/1/2011

CINCINNATI Shortening end caps on chromosomes in human cervical cancer cells disrupts DNA repair signaling, increases the cells' sensitivity to radiation treatment and kills them more quickly, according to a study in Cancer Prevention Research.

Researchers would to like see their laboratory findings published in the journal's Dec. 5 print edition lead to safer, more effective combination therapies for hard-to-treat pediatric brain cancers like medulloblastoma and high-grade gliomas. To this end, they are starting laboratory tests on brain cancer cells.

"Children with pediatric brain cancers don't have very many options because progress to find new treatments has been limited the last 30 years," said Rachid Drissi, PhD, principal investigator on the study and a researcher in the Division of Oncology at Cincinnati Children's. "The ability to make cancer cells more sensitive to radiation could allow physicians to use lower radiation doses to lessen side effects. Too many children with brain cancer can develop disabilities or die from treatment."

Before treating cells with ionizing radiation, the researchers blocked an enzyme called telomerase, found in over 90 percent of cancer cells but barely detectable in most normal human cells. In cancer cells, telomerase helps maintain the length of caps on the ends of chromosomes called telomeres. This helps cancer cells replicate indefinitely, grow and spread, Drissi said.

Unraveling DNA repair

Found on chromosomes in both cancerous and normal cells, telomeres are analogous to plastic caps that keep shoestring ends from unraveling. Telomeres help preserve DNA stability in cells by containing genetic miscues. This helps explain why cells with maintained or long telomeres appear to be more resistant to radiation.

In normal cells lacking the telomerase enzyme, telomeres get shorter each time cells divide. They continue doing so until normal cells stop divi
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Contact: Nick Miller
nicholas.miller@cchmc.org
513-803-6035
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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