Protein plays spoilsport, protects lung cancer cells

February 29th, 2008 - 11:31 am ICT by admin  

Washington, Feb 29 (IANS) A protein helps lung cancer cells thrive by playing a spoilsport and blocking healthy cells’ ability to fix themselves when radiation or nicotine damage their DNA, a new study has found. “If a cell experiences DNA damage, often that DNA can be repaired. But we found that a protein Bc12 can block the DNA repair mechanism, which promotes tumour formation and genetic instability,” said Xingming Deng of the University of Florida.

“Lung cancer is the number one killer of all cancer types. It is the most dangerous,” Deng said. “We wanted to find a way to treat lung cancer, how to prevent lung cancer, because lung cancer prognosis is very poor.”

More people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.

High levels of the protein, known as Bc12, are found in the cells of lung cancer patients who smoke. Previous research has shown that nicotine activates the protein, which helps tumour cells live long past their natural lifespan and resist chemotherapy.

Researchers say just one cell that develops a genetic mutation and is unable to repair itself could be enough for a full-blown tumour to develop.

The new findings explain how the protein enables cancer cells to evade the body’s own efforts to change them back into healthy cells or circumvent treatment designed to kill them.

Cancer is often associated with the accumulation of genetic aberrations in cells’ chromosomes. If these damaged cells can’t access their built-in repair system and subsequently survive long enough to divide and multiply, they pass along their mutations.

The study has been published in the latest issue of Molecular Cell.

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