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Purdue scientists hunt for 'secret X' to treat liver cancer

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Identifying the link between chronic hepatitis B infection and liver cancer may one day help cancer patients sidestep the poison of chemotherapy, a Purdue University study suggests.

The research group of Ourania M. Andrisani (oo-RAHN-ee-ah an-dri-SAH-nee) has shown that a protein the hepatitis virus instructs chronically infected liver cells to produce - known as the X protein - under certain conditions instructs precancerous infected liver cells to die. The discovery of how the X protein influences liver cell behavior could be harnessed as an anticancer therapy, turning the X protein's presence in the liver to patients' advantage.

"Instead of chemotherapy, drugs that influence the X protein's behavior might become an alternative cancer therapy," said Andrisani, a professor of basic medical sciences in Purdue's School of Veterinary Medicine. "Rather than give a patient chemicals that damage every cell in the body, therapy based on the X protein could potentially target only cancerous cells, slowing their growth."

The research, which Andrisani conducted with first author Wen Horng Wang, and Grald Gregori and Ronald L. Hullinger, all of Purdue, appears in the current issue of Molecular and Cellular Biology.

Viruses like the hepatitis B virus incorporate their genes into a healthy cell's genetic material. This way, many viruses not only instruct the cell to make proteins necessary to assemble more virus particles, but they also change or deregulate the normal production of proteins by the healthy cell. One of the genes hepatitis B introduces into liver cells is called the X gene, a short sequence of DNA that "expresses," or creates, the X protein - a building block essential for creating hepatitis B. Scientists have suspected the gene and its corresponding protein to be accomplices in cancer development as well.

"The X protein is present in the livers of all chronic hepatitis B patients, and sev
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Contact: Chad Boutin
cboutin@purdue.edu
765-494-2081
Purdue University
13-Dec-2004


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