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New fusion gene plays role in some stomach cancers
Date:4/6/2011

gene, which resulted when two nearby genes blended into one. The SLC1A2 gene is associated with the metabolism of the amino acid glutamate, which can work like a fertilizer encouraging tumor growth and survival, while the CD44 gene serves as a sort of "on" switch.

Melded into one, the CD44-SLC1A2 hybrid appears to fuel stomach tumors. Tan's team estimates the fusion gene may be at work in up to 2 percent of stomach cancers.

"Using high-throughput genomic technologies such as sequencing and GBA, we are now finding that cancers do express many fusion genes," Tan said. "The current feeling is that while most of these are harmless and 'noise' from genomic instability, there can be cases, such as CD44-SLC1A2, where the fusion gene contributes actively to the cancer."

The finding could lead to improved therapies for this subset of stomach cancers. As part of the study, the researchers used a gene silencing approach to reduce the levels of CD44-SLC1A2 in cancer cell lines. They found that this caused a reduction in the glutamate levels of cancer cells, and made the cells more vulnerable to the effects of cisplatin, a common chemotherapy.

"It does suggest that drugs that inhibit SLC1A2 function could be used to sensitize tumors to chemotherapy," Tan said. "Such glutamate uptake inhibitors are available, and we are working very hard to test this possibility."


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Contact: Sarah Avery
sarah.avery@duke.edu
919-660-1306
Duke University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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