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Científicos caracterizan defensa natural contra tumores

Scientists characterise natural defence against tumours

Scientists at the University of Sheffield have made a major breakthrough in understanding the way tumours grow, which could lead to the development of new cancer therapies. The research, which was carried out as part of an international research collaboration with several organisations, has recently been published in Nature. In the early stages of cancer development a natural defence mechanism prevents cells from growing and developing into tumours. Although it is well established that there is a cellular defence against cancer and that it is activated when the body recognises faulty DNA or DNA lesions, researchers from the University have made a vital connection, linking them with the early cancer cell.

Professor Thomas Helleday, from the Institute for Cancer Studies at the University of Sheffield and his international partners, have found that DNA lesions, that activate the defence mechanism, are specific to the early cancer cell, and it is the cancer cell that causes this faulty DNA. The finding may make it possible for scientists to exploit the lesions occurring during cancer development and make them toxic enough to kill the cancer cells.

Professor Thomas Helleday from the Institute for Cancer Studies at the University of Sheffield said: "This finding suggests a new concept for cancer treatment. If we amplify the DNA lesions produced at these early stages of tumour development we may create so much damage that the cancer cells dies. The advantage of this concept is that only the tumour cells with the DNA lesions would be affected."

He added: "A similar concept, already in the pipeline, has been used to develop a new method to treat inherited breast cancer and our findings demonstrate that a similar strategy to exploit tumour weaknesses may be used to treat many other types of cancer."

Notes for Editors: Tumour development is initiated by a genetic change that results in an increase in growth signals to start cell division. The DNA needs to be copied before cell division and here it is shown that the increase in growth signals can lead to errors during the copying of the cellular DNA. Normally the cell senses the copying errors and activates the defence mechanism to stop further growth

The research paper "Oncogene-induced senescence is part of the tumorigenesis barrier imposed by DNA damage checkpoints" has been published in Nature, www.nature.com

Thomas Helleday carried out his work as part of an international collaboration. The other partners involved include:

Institute of Cancer Biology and Centre for Genotoxic Stress Research, Danish Cancer Society
The Wistar Institute, Philadelphia
Department of Histology and Embryology, School of Medicine, University of Athens
Institute of Biology, Demokritos National Center for Scientific Research, Athens
Department of Genetics, Microbiology and Toxicology, Stockholm University, Sweden
Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, University of Ioannina, Greece
Institute of Biological Research and Biotechnology, National Hellenic Research Foundation, Athens, Greece
Gastroenterology Division, Department of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Department of Pathology, University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark
Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark
Department of Molecular Biology, University of Geneva, Switzerland
Thomas Helleday´s research is sponsored by Yorkshire Cancer Research.

For further information please contact: Jenny Wilson, Media Relations Officer on 0114 2225339 or email j.c.wilson@sheffield.ac.uk

Courtesy: The University of Sheffield

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