Hebrew University research finds why chemotherapy might lead to cancer

Jerusalem, February 25, 2002 A study of chromosomes in cancerous cells conducted at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found that some chemotherapy drugs actually create the conditions that generate new cancerous growths. Associate Professor of Genetics Batsheva Kerems article on this study will be featured in the inaugural edition of Cancer Cell, which will be published on February 26, 2002. Prof. Kerem, who is renowned for her work on the genetics of cystic fibrosis, said that her research can lead to the development of more effective and less damaging chemotherapy drugs.

Prof. Kerem and PhD candidate Asaf Hellman explain that in studying the differences between cancerous and healthy cells they found that the chromosomes of cancerous cells break recurrently at specific regions known as "fragile sites."

In a previous study, Prof. Kerem and Asaf Hellman showed that fragile sites are sites where the mechanism responsible for DNA replication is disturbed. This could lead to breakage resulting in multiple rearrangements of the chromosomes, a striking characteristic of cancer cells.

Prof. Kerem explained that there are some 100 fragile sites in the human genome and five of these sites are now being studied.

Prof. Kerem explained that normal cells develop fragile regions when they are exposed to certain conditions. Some of the drugs used in chemotherapy may cause these conditions and thus plant the seeds of a future cancerous growth while they are killing the current one.

Our work creates a better understanding of how drugs used against cancer work, which will lead to the creation of the next generation of drugs, which can halt the growth of cancerous cells without inducing fragile sites, Asaf Hellman said.


Contact: Heidi J. Gleit
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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