HOUSTON - While Fanconi anemia (FA) is a rare and dangerous disease, new laboratory research at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center shows it may lead researchers toward clues in more common diseases, including highly hereditary types of breast cancer.
In a study published in the Sept. 11 issue of the journal Molecular Cell, scientists report that recruitment of proteins to DNA damage sites is controlled by replication in both FA and BRCA cancer proteins.
Lei Li, Ph.D, professor in Experimental Radiation Oncology at M. D. Anderson, and corresponding author of the study, has spent much of his 15-year career studying how the body repairs DNA damage. He says DNA crosslinks are the most severe type of DNA damage; they're actually turned against cancer in certain drugs, including cisplatin.
Answers have been elusive
People with FA, a hereditary disease, are extremely sensitive to DNA crosslinks and at a very high risk for cancer. How the Fanconi pathway protects cells from DNA crosslinks and whether FA proteins act directly on crosslinks has remained unclear despite extensive research.
"Our lab has been working for almost 10 years on why FA cells are so sensitive to crosslinking," Li said. "We've known it must have something to do with how they deal with DNA crosslinks, but this is the first time we've been able to pinpoint a reason for some of them."
FA involves 13 genes; a mutation in any one of them can cause the disease. Three of the FA genes recently were found to be identical to breast cancer susceptibility genes BRCA2, BACH1 and PALB2.
"This led us to begin to examine breast cancer genes, since we thought they might have something to do with the repair of DNA crosslinkers," Li said.
Researchers developed a novel genetic technique, eChIP, a chromatin-IP-based strategy, to examine FA proteins with DNA crosslinks.
|Contact: Scott Merville|
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center