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Loosen leash on cancer protein 'watchdog,' researchers say

Scientists may have found a way to keep a protein "watchdog" on high alert to stop hereditary cancers from overrunning our bodies - if they can keep it on a leash of just the right length.

In a collaborative effort, a team of scientists including Purdue University's Susan M. Mendrysa has found that one of the proteins found naturally in cells has the ability to halt the progression of intestinal tumors that arise from genetic predisposition. When the activity of this protein, known only by the technical name of p53, was artificially increased in the cells of laboratory mice, those known to have a hereditary predisposition for developing cancer showed a marked decrease in tumor development when compared with mice that had normal p53 activity.

The study also indicated that the treated mice did not suffer from the side effect the research team most feared: premature aging, which has been linked to overproduction of p53 in other studies. The discovery could assist in future human cancer treatments.

"It's a question of balance," said Mendrysa (pronounced men-DRISS-ah), who is an assistant professor of basic medical sciences in Purdue's College of Veterinary Medicine and co-lead author of the work. "The p53 protein has been long known as an effective weapon against cancers, but we know from previous research that we can't just let it run rampant through the body without some very unpleasant side effects. But if we can give it just enough slack in its leash, it could help some patients from cancer-prone families from ever developing the disease."

The team's research appears in the Jan. 1 issue of the scientific journal Genes and Development. Members of the group include the University of Wisconsin - Madison's Kathleen A. O'Leary (co-lead author), Matthew K. McElwee and Jennifer Michalowski; the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Robert N. Eisenman; and the National Cancer Institute's Mary Ellen Perry and Douglas A. Powell. When the gro
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Contact: Chad Boutin
cboutin@purdue.edu
765-494-2081
Purdue University
4-Jan-2006


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