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Genetic changes outside nuclear DNA suspected to trigger more than half of all cancers
Date:3/24/2009

e genes activated by demethylation.

The list was cross-referenced with genes "turned on" in 49 head and neck cancer samples and 19 normal tissue samples. In all, Califano and his team found 106 genes specific to head and neck cancer that were activated by the demethylation process. "Some of the genes regulate growth, others metabolize sugars and some have already been linked to cancer development," says Califano, who is director of head and neck cancer research at the Milton J. Dance Jr. Head & Neck Center at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. A report on this work appears on March 23 in PLoS One.

Further analysis by the Johns Hopkins team revealed a single connection among 106 genes: methylation within them is regulated by another gene called BORIS. BORIS acts as a "master regulator," recruiting other proteins to demethylate a coordinated set of genes and signaling the development of cancer. According to the scientists, nearly 60 percent of a wide range of cancers, including head and neck and lung cancer, have high levels of BORIS expression.

He envisions that agents like 5-azacytidine may need to be combined with a "BORIS blocker," a drug that has yet to be developed to protect patients who need demethylating therapies.


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Contact: Vanessa Wasta
wastava@jhmi.edu
410-955-1287
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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