Cedars-Sinai Scientist Finds Malignancy Gene In Tumor Cells

LOS ANGELES -- A scientist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center has discovered a gene that exists in malignant tumors of the brain, liver, breast, colon, kidney, and reproductive organs, but not in healthy adults, stirring hopes that a vital key to cancer development and progression may have been unmasked.

Julia Y. Ljubimova, M.D., Ph.D., a cancer researcher in the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, announced the discovery of a novel human malignancy-associated gene (MAG) in the October issue of Cancer Research, the Philadelphia-based journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

"We feel that this gene may 'turn on' the process of malignancy," said Dr. Ljubimova (pronounced "Lou-bee-mo-va"), a native of Russia who is a member of Dr. Keith Black's neurosurgical research team. Once the newly-found gene has been completely sequenced, a process that could be completed in three months, work will begin on genetically engineering a method of blocking the gene's expression. Herein may lie its greatest clinical significance, said Dr. Ljubimova. "Most patients die from metastasis or invasion," she said. "If, using antisense technology, the gene could be deactivated, a tumor cell's blueprint for rampant growth might be destroyed, and the cancer stopped before it spread."

"The discovery of the MAG gene was serendipitous," Dr. Ljubimova explained, "the result of looking at expression of another gene (c-met proto-oncogene) in normal and cancerous human liver tissues. An extra polymerase chain reaction (PCR) band kept appearing in specimens from livers from patients with advanced cirrhosis or liver cancer. Further exploration led to the conclusion that it was a gene associated with malignancy. In her paper, Dr. Ljubimova wrote, "Analysis of 30 liver and five brain disease cases for MAG expression has indicated its potential importance in liver and brain neoplasia. The

Contact: Roberta Nichols
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

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