Similarity of cancer gene to stem cells could improve cancer diagnosis rates

19 July 2011 

The successful rate of cancer diagnosis and treatment may be enhanced with news that stem cells and cancer cells may share the same genetic origin, according to scientists at the University of Southern California (USC).

USC's study, due to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, demonstrated how protein p53, developed by the potentially cancer-causing gene known as an oncogene, was successfully suppressed allowing skin cells to develop into embryonic stem cells.

"When you turn off p53, people think the cell becomes cancerous," said Prof Jiang F Zhong, assistant professor of pathology at USC.

"Actually, the cell becomes more plastic and could do good things too," the professor explained.

The development potentially has powerful repercussions for cancer treatment and the wider implications of stem-cell research and application.

Dr Mark Matfield, scientific coordinator at the Association for International Cancer Research, recently explained that people's awareness of cancer's causes does not seem to be greatly impacting on their lifestyle choices. "Awareness is not enough on its own," the doctor said.

Posted by Philip Briggs

1 Calvin Li, Shengwen et al. "Increase developmental plasticity of human keratinocytes with gene suppression". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal. Monday, July 18th 2011.

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