Research Uncovers New Clues to Cancer

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cancer researchHealthDay News  -- The same mechanism that drives tumor development can also suppress tumor growth, new research shows.

A team at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine studied mice that had cells with one or more extra or missing chromosomes -- a characteristic known as aneuploidy, a common feature of cancer cells.

"We questioned whether the wrong number of chromosomes contributed to tumor growth or was a consequence of the accrued damage in cancerous cells," Don Cleveland, a professor of medicine at UCSD, explained in a prepared statement.

"We found that, with age, having cells which inherited the wrong composition of chromosomes resulted in a larger number of spontaneous tumors," Cleveland said.

But the research also led to an unexpected finding. When the team added other genetic errors in mice with a high rate of aneuploidy, tumor development was slowed.

"When we created mice missing a tumor suppressor gene that also had a high rate of aneuploidy, tumor development was actually sharply delayed," said Cleveland, adding that in tumors, "there is always a balance between uncontrolled growth and death."

The findings are published in the Jan. 1 issue of Cancer Cell.

The researchers hope that the findings will lead to the future development of drugs that can trigger the type of aneuploidy that destroys certain types of tumors.

"This study opens up a whole series of potential therapeutic targets for cancer," said co-researcher Beth A. A. Weaver, of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and the UCSD Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. "By increasing the level of genetic damage, we can kill those tumor cells," she said in a statement.

More information

The National Cancer Institute has more about cancer.

SOURCE: University of California, San Diego, news release, Dec. 28, 2006

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