At a glance:
- Researchers have identified gene mutations that cause cancer in a previously unknown way.
- Affected cells lose the ability to get rid of defective strands of RNA.
- The findings apply to many different cancers and could lead to development of better treatments for them.
Cancer can stem from mutations in many different genes.
New research pinpoints a gene that, when mutated, causes cancer through a mechanism scientists haven’t seen before: cells lose the ability to dispose of their trash, namely defective strands of RNA.
This mechanism appears to cut across many different malignancies and could present a whole new set of molecules for cancer drugs to target, as reported April 21 in Science by a team from Harvard Medical School, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
While studying zebrafish, Megan Insco, HMS instructor in medicine who was a research fellow in the lab of Leonard Zon at HMS and Boston Children’s at the time, identified a tumor-suppressing gene called CDK13. When mutated, it expedited the development of melanoma.
The vacuum cleaner was broken, so the RNAs were building up.