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News DNA tag switches off gene to cause womb cancer

Article in 'News' Written by Arul Prakash Published Nov 13, 2013

  1. According to researchers a gene that inhibits the development of womb cancer is switched off by a "DNA Tag".

    The discovery is a shot in the arm for researchers trying to predict women with high risk of developing womb cancer and to develop new therapeutics to detect endometrial cancer ( cancer in the womb lining ).

    The study published in the journal PLOS Medicine by researchers from University College London revealed results from studying a particular type of tag called methylation, these epigenetic markers control gene activity without change in DNA sequence.

    The results showed that these methylation tags covered a gene called HAND2 in almost 90% of womb cancer patients.In healthy tissue, HAND2 gene is active and controls cell growth by balancing effects of Oestrogen hormone, if uncontrolled the hormone could encourage excessive cell growth.

    DNA Tag.
    HAND2 methylation levels was higher during initial growth phases of cancer and a common factor linking endometrial cancer patients. Progesterone treatment to stop these growth regions failed with increasing levels of methylation.

    Professor Martin Widschwendter, said: "Our work provides clear evidence that it is not only genetic alterations which trigger and lead to cancer but that epigenetic alteration can also be the initiating step."

    Professor Bob Brown, from Cancer Research UK said: "This study shows the potential importance of epigenetic regulation in cancer and adds to a growing list of epigenetic markers that show promise but still require further testing."

    "Genetic markers are already being used for some cancers to help select treatments and epigenetic markers such as DNA methylation may be just as informative as genetic markers."

    "More work will be needed to see if this potential endometrial cancer marker could be used to decide which patients might benefit from a particular treatment or even help develop new treatments in the future."

    He also said that larger studies will allow researchers to decide how useful these markers could be and also help develop kinder, safer treatments for endometrial cancer.

    Further reading : Role of DNA Methylation and Epigenetic Silencing of HAND2 in Endometrial Cancer Development, PLoS Medicine, 10 (11) e1001551. DOI:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001551.s026
    • Arul Prakash

      Article by Arul Prakash

      Editor and founder of BiotechCareer.Org. He is an Industrial Biotechnologists and also a web developer, gooner, blogger, and foodie.

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