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Scientists uncover key piece to cancer cell survival puzzle
Date:8/7/2014

A chance meeting between two leading UK and US scientists could have finally helped solve a key mystery in cancer research.

Scientists have long known that chromosomal defects occur as cells repeatedly divide. Over time, these defects are linked to the onset of cancer.

Now, Professor Duncan Baird and his team from Cardiff University working in collaboration with Eric A. Hendrickson from the University of Minnesota, have identified a specific gene that human cells require in order to survive these types of defects.

"We have found a gene that appears to be crucial for the evolutionary processes that can drive cancer" said Professor Baird from Cardiff University's Institute of Cancer and Genetics.

"This is a new role for this gene, making it a potential therapeutic target," he added.

As cells divide their telomeres the DNA "caps" that protect the ends of chromosomes from damage shorten, leaving the chromosomes vulnerable to sticking to each other.

In normal cells, this chromosome stickiness is a death knell a signal to trigger the defective-cell clean-up process to move in and help finish them off.

Malignant cells, however, are somehow able to elude this clean-up process.

The current research, published in journal Cell Reports, identifies an essential component that allows older cells to evade death.

Using sophisticated gene-targeting techniques to disable particular genes in human cells and then studying the impact on telomere fusion, the researchers found that cells escaped death only when the gene Ligase 3 was active but not when its action, which appears to promote fusion within like chromosomes rather than between different chromosomes, was blocked.

"Telomere dysfunction has been identified in many human cancers, and as we have shown previously, short telomeres can predict the outcome of patients with [chronic lymphocytic leukemia] and probably many o
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Contact: Chris Jones
jonesc83@cardiff.ac.uk
029-208-74731
Cardiff University
Source:Eurekalert

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