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Discovery of rogue gene may help slow spread of cancer

by nickj on January 25, 2011

U.K. scientists at the University of East Anglia have isolated what they have termed a rogue gene that is linked to the metastasation of cancer cells in the body, fueling hopes that a treatment that will prevent late-stage cancer from spreading to other organs will soon be available.

The gene, called WWP2, is present in everyone's body upon birth and has been observed to appear in large quantities when tumors become malignant. It is thought to control an enzyme that impairs the function of the body's natural defenses against cancerous cell-spreading.

Scientists hope to develop a drug within the next decade that switches the gene off, preventing the original tumor from growing in size and rendering it harmless upon surgical removal.

"We all have the gene but when it is faulty it hijacks this process and helps cancer to develop and spread to other parts of the body. This is what eventually kills cancer patients. If a tumour stayed in the same place it would just be a simple case of removing it with surgery every time," Dr. Andrew Chantry told the Telegraph.

Chantry told the news source that his team has already begun experimentation with a molecule that could successfully block the gene.

According to the Associated Free Press, the discovery was made while the researchers were studying a group of cancer-cell inhibitors called "smads."

The research team believes that if the right drug is found, it could significantly impact the treatment of all forms of cancer, but especially breast, brain, colon and skin cancers, the news source reports.

The study was published on Monday in the Oncogene journal by Britain's Nature Publishing Group.

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