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Gene May Be New Cancer Treatment Target

Blocking action of MTHFR gene shrank tumors in mice

FRIDAY, March 18, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Canadian scientists have honed in on a gene that may provide a whole new target for cancer therapies.

Inhibiting the gene -- called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) -- cut the growth of colon and lung cancer in both laboratory tissue cultures and mice, say researchers at McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), in Montreal.

"MTHFR is involved in the synthesis of methionine -- a critical nutrient necessary for the growth of cancer cells. By inhibiting the gene's function, we were able to slow the growth of tumors," principal investigator Rima Rozen, deputy scientific director of the MUHC Research Institute, explained in a prepared statement.

The researchers inhibited MTHFR by a relatively new method -- blocking gene activity with a molecule that's the exact opposite, or "antisense," of a tiny section of the MTHFR gene.

"Discovering that the antisense works in animal models is a major step forward, and gives us hope that this might also work in humans," Rozen said.

The study also found the antisense seemed particularly effective in reducing tumors when it was administered in low doses and in combination with current cancer drugs.

"All drugs and antisense have some level of toxicity. An antisense that works in harmony with other drugs, and in such low doses, is a significant breakthrough in cancer research," Rozen said.

The study appears online in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about cancer treatments.

SOURCE: McGill University Health Centre, news release, March 8, 2005
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