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Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory scientists discover new gene that prevents multiple types of cancer

A decades-old cancer mystery has been solved by researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL). "We not only found a critical tumor suppressor gene, but have revealed a master switch for a tumor suppressive network that means more targeted and effective cancer therapy in the future," said CSHL Associate Professor Alea Mills, Ph.D. The study, headed by Mills, was published in the February issue of Cell.

Specifically, Mills' discovery identifies CHD5, a protein that prevents cancer, as a novel tumor suppressor, mapping to a specific portion of chromosome 1 known as 1p36. When CHD5 is not doing its job, the machinery within our cells that normally prevents cancer is switched off. The ability of CHD5 to function as a master switch for a tumor suppressive network suggests that this gene is responsible for a large number of diverse forms of human cancers. "CHD5 functions like a circuit breaker that regulates the tumor-preventing power in our cellswhen it blows, cancer occurs," explains Mills. Modulation of CHD5 activity may provide novel strategies for better design of more effective cancer therapies. This gene has remained a mystery until the discovery by Mills' team.

After they located the region where the tumor suppressor resided, the Mills team sought to identify which genes in that area were responsible for tumor suppression. Their results showed that reducing expression of a single gene--CHD5--made cells that had been rendered slow growing by adding an extra copy of the region, grow like normal cells.

The findings of Mills' study will influence the future of cancer research. It shows that deletion of a part of 1p36 causes cancer and increased "dosage" of CHD5 triggers extra tumor suppression. One extra dose, or copy, caused cells to either stop dividing or to undergo cell suicide by switching on a battery of potent tumor protective machinery. This work indicates that pharmaceuticals that switch on CHD5 may provide a way
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Contact: Alyssa Nightingale
anight@att.net
631-367-8599
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
9-Feb-2007


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