Researchers Discover Tumor-Supressor Gene That May Indicate Susceptibility ToLung And Colon Cancer

DALLAS - Oct. 9, 1998 --- Discovery of a new human tumor-suppressor gene by UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas researchers could dramatically reduce the number of Americans who die annually from the two most lethal cancers, lung and colon malignancies.

Defining the PPP2R1B gene in human lung and colon cancer could make it possible for doctors to accurately predict who has a high risk of developing the two illnesses and find effective therapies for those already afflicted. The study is reported in today's journal Science by a team of investigators led by Dr. Glen Evans, director of the Eugene McDermott Center for Human Growth and Development at UT Southwestern, and Dr. Steven Wang, a postdoctoral fellow in the center.

"This finding is exciting because we have been able to locate, identify and determine the functions of this gene that is involved in lung and colon cancer and probably many others," said Evans, who also directs the Genome Science and Technology Center. "The mutations we found are both somatic and germline, in other words, found in both normal and tumor tissue. The significance of this evidence means the defect may be inherited, making some people more susceptible to cigarette smoke and similar tumor-promoting chemicals."

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 1998 nearly 48,000 people will die of colon cancer and 160,000 of lung cancer. Scientists already know that tumor promoters effect a biochemical process that is involved with phosphate metabolism.

PPP2R1B makes one of three proteins that removes phosphates from protein molecules that regulate cell growth. If the gene is not working correctly, too much phosphate builds up on the regulatory proteins, and the growth becomes uncontrolled. This unchecked cell division is the beginning of a tumor.

The researchers found PPP2R1B on chromosome 11 in an area they call a "hot spot" for cancer genes. They k

Contact: Susan Steeves
UT Southwestern Medical Center

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