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Cancer Scientists' Gene Research Offers New Treatment Hope

lled thymine. "Inhibiting the DHFR gene could help to prevent the growth of neoplastic cancer cells - ordinary cells which develop into tumour cells - such as in prostate cancer cells," Dr Akoulitchev said. "In fact, the first anti-cancer drug, Methotrexate, acts by binding and inhibiting the enzyme produced by this gene," he said. The Oxford study is to be published in the journal Nature.

Another approach is being adopted by Professor Michael Weller, medical director of general neurology at the University Clinic in Tübingen, who is using smaller molecules of RNA to silence a gene that otherwise protects brain tumours from being attacked by the body's immune system.

In experiments on mice with malignant brain cancer all the tumours decomposed completely because they were no longer being protected by the silenced gene - known as TGF-beta.

"We saw the tumours grow, then we saw them regress. I've been working on this for 10 years and it's the only technology where we've reliably produced cures for the animals," Professor Weller said.

The two American scientists who discovered RNA-interference, Andrew Fire, of Stanford University, and Craig Mello, from the University of Massachusetts, won last year's Nobel Prize in medicine.

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