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Pair of cancer genes found to drive both cell migration and division

Johns Hopkins researchers have found that two genes already known to control cell movement are also needed for proper cell division. They report their findings in the April issue of Developmental Cell.

The researchers discovered that the two genes are required for a dividing cell's halves to separate, raising the possibility that interfering with them could be helpful in stopping the uncontrolled cell division found in cancers. Mutations in the genes, called PTEN and PI3K, already had been found in over half of all human cancers.

"In cancer, you sometimes see cells failing to divide or undergoing unequal divisions. In addition, cell migration can lead to tumors spreading and developing in different places in the body," says Peter Devreotes, Ph.D., professor and director of Cell Biology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine's Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences. "Now that we know that PTEN and PI3K are involved in both of these processes, it should stimulate new avenues of research in cancer."

Medicines that target PI3K or PTEN and prevent cell migration could also potentially help with inflammatory disorders, such as arthritis, since inflammation is caused when lots of immune cells move to one part of the body and cause it to swell painfully, he says.

The researchers also hope their findings will provide a bridge between two scientific fields that have traditionally kept to themselves.

"Scientists studying cell migration have focused on the front of the cell and what drives it, while cell division researchers have concentrated on the furrow within the dividing cell," says Devreotes. "But we've found that when you look at the whole cell, there are a lot of similarities between division and movement."

In normal cells, the two genes work in tandem to regulate a molecule called PIP3, which helps the cell decide where to push outward - PI3K makes PIP3 on the membrane on one side of a cell while PTEN breaks it do
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Contact: Joanna Downer
jdowner1@jhmi.edu
410-614-5105
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
5-Apr-2005


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