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Silencing a Key Cancer Gene

Technique suppresses mutations found in one-third of tumors

MONDAY, May 9, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists say they've developed a method of inhibiting a mutant gene found in nearly a third of human tumors.

Normal copies of this gene -- called Ras -- play an important role in communication between cells. However, mutant versions of Ras are cancer-causing genes (oncogenes) known to promote the growth of pancreatic, colon, lung and thyroid cancers, as well as leukemias.

In this study, conducted in mice, researchers at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah report that deleting an enzyme called "DGK iota" appears to lower the incidence of Ras-related tumors in mice. DGK iota belongs to a group of enzymes called diacylglycerol kinases (DGKs) that regulate the function of the Ras gene.

"When we tested mice with an activated Ras gene, but an absent DGK iota gene, the number of tumors was significantly reduced," study lead author Dr. Matthew Topham, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, said in a prepared statement.

His team's study appears in this week's issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This finding could someday lead to the development of drugs that fight Ras-related tumors, the investigators say.

The researchers' next step is to examine more closely the way DGK iota works to inhibit tumor formation.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about cancer.

SOURCE: Huntsman Cancer Insitute, news release, May 9, 2005
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