Investigators use guilt-by-association strategy to track potential cancer causing genes

A detective has a slim chance of catching a crook who escapes without a trace. But an investigator who can track a culprit's friends and associates might learn much about a criminal's next target.

A "guilt-by-association" strategy turns out be just as effective in cancer biology as it is in law enforcement, since cancer-causing proteins that rob cells of their ability to divide normally also depend on co-conspirators. Such molecular partners in crime, once identified, may yield a wealth of information about how a cancer develops and how it best can be treated.

Drs. Harry Hwang and Bruce E. Clurman, researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and colleagues successfully used this approach to identify cancer genes that collaborate with a protein called p27, which is found in abnormally low levels in lymphomas and breast and other cancers.

The team identified 21 potential cancer genes, and as many as 14 of these genes may have not beenpreviously implicated inthe development of cancer. The achievement-made possible by the recent completion of the mouse and human genomes-represents a key step toward the quest by cancer biologists to characterize the cellular pathways that distinguish one type of cancer from another.

The study appears in the current online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A copy of the paper is available at http://www.pnas.org. Co-authors include Dr. Matthew Fero also at Fred Hutchinson, and Dr. Anton Berns and his colleagues at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam.

"We know development of cancer requires multiple steps," Hwang said. "Based on work in some human tumors, it appears that the loss of p27 is one significant event. We asked the question, what are the other players in the pathway that lead to tumor formation when p27 is involved?"

According to Hwang, the identification of the complete network of genes requir

Contact: Susan Edmonds
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

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