Protein Nabbed as Cancer Ally

Scientists identify fragment that interferes with disease-fighting gene

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MONDAY, Jan. 13, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A protein fragment that thwarts the effectiveness of a tumor-fighting gene may prove to be an important target for new cancer treatments.

That's the hopeful conclusion of a study in the February issue of Nature Genetics.

Researchers say the protein fragment, iASPP, is in a class of proteins called apoptotic enhancers (ASPP). These proteins stimulate programmed cell death (called apoptosis) through the p53 gene.

However, this study found the iASPP protein fragment hinders the ability of the p53 gene to exert its normal cell-killing power. They say it appears that iASPP plays a major role in turning normal cells into cancerous cells.

In experiments on different kinds of cells, the researchers found that when iASPP levels were reduced, the p53 gene was better able to prevent tumor cell growth. That's a strong indication that iASPP is an impediment to controlling cancer.

The study findings add more information to the effort to fight cancer by focusing on the p53 gene, a major genetic factor in controlling tumor growth.

In many forms of cancer, the p53 gene is mutated and ineffective, which lets tumors spread.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about the p53 gene.

SOURCE: Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, news release, Jan. 12, 2003

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