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Strategy discovered to activate genes that suppress tumors and inhibit cancer
Date:5/21/2012

A team of scientists has developed a promising new strategy for "reactivating" genes that cause cancer tumors to shrink and die. The researchers hope that their discovery will aid in the development of an innovative anti-cancer drug that effectively targets unhealthy, cancerous tissue without damaging healthy, non-cancerous tissue and vital organs. The research will be published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

The team, led by Yanming Wang, a Penn State University associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, and Gong Chen, a Penn State assistant professor of chemistry, developed the new strategy after years of earlier research on a gene called PAD4 (peptidylarginine deiminase 4), which produces the PAD4 enzyme. Previous research by Wang and other scientists revealed that the PAD4 enzyme plays an important role in protecting the body from infection. The scientists compared normal mice with a functioning PAD4 gene to other mice that had a defective a PAD4 gene. When infected with bacteria, cells from the normal mice attacked and killed about 30 percent of the harmful bacteria, while cells from the defective mice battled a mere 10 percent. The researchers discovered that cells with a functioning PAD4 enzyme are able to build around themselves a protective, bacteria-killing web that Wang and his colleagues dubbed a NET (neutrophil extracellular trap). This NET is especially effective at fighting off flesh-eating bacteria.

Now, in their new study, Wang and his collaborators have focused on the less-desirable effects of the same PAD4 gene. While PAD4 is clearly a critical part of the body's defense strategy, the gene's over-expression may be linked to autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. One situation in which the PAD4 enzyme is markedly increased is in patients with certain cancers, such as breast, lung, and bone cancers. "We know that the PAD4 gene acts to silence tumor-suppres
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Contact: Barbara Kennedy
science@psu.edu
814-863-4682
Penn State
Source:Eurekalert  

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