New molecule map 'could explain cancer risk in diabetics'

16 November 2011

Healthcare researchers have found a molecular link that explains the connection between cancer and diabetes.

Scientists at Lund University in Sweden explained the fact that diabetes raises the risk of certain cancers is already well known, but a more complex view of the reasons why can be interpreted from the map of molecules.

"We have worked with the most well-known risk gene for type 2 diabetes - a variant of the TCF gene - and have studied its function in the beta cells," said Yuedan Zhou, a doctoral student at the Lund University Diabetes Centre and principal author of the published study.

She added that the stages for developing type 2 diabetes are long and complex, giving increased time for a gene risky to cancer development to become prominent.

Two genes - TCF and p53 - work together in the process of diabetes development - TCF protects against cell death, while p53 prevents excessive cell division, which could pose a risk of cancer. The risk variant of TCF is common, with 25 per cent of the population carrying it and 31 per cent of diabetics.

The number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK last year increased by nearly 130,000 to 2.9 million, according to Diabetes UK.

Posted by Edward Bartel

Zhou, Yuedan, et al., "Survival of pancreatic beta cells is partly controlled by a TCF7L2-p53-p53INP1-dependent pathway", Human Molecular Genetics, November 2011.

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