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'Brake gene' switched off in pancreatic cancer

London, Tue, 01 May 2012 ANI

London, May 1 (ANI): Researchers have explored a new class of drugs, which may bring treatment of aggressive pancreatic tumours closer to reality.

Less than one in five people with this form of cancer are still alive a year after the disease is detected.

The new study by Cancer Research UK showed that a gene was being switched off in the cancerous cells.

The researchers asserted that the drugs were already being tested which had the potential to turn the gene back on, to stop the spread of the cancer.

"These results raise the possibility that a class of promising new cancer drugs may be effective at treating some pancreatic cancers," the BBC quoted Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK, as saying.

Studies in mice demonstrated that a gene dubbed USP9x, which usually stops a cell from dividing uncontrollably, is switched off in some pancreatic cancer cells.

The gene is not mutated, but other proteins and chemicals become stuck to it and turn the gene off.

Studies then showed that UPS9x was being turned off in human pancreatic cancer.

"We suspected that the fault wasn't in the genetic code at all, but in the chemical tags on the surface of the DNA that switch genes on and off, and by running more lab tests we were able to confirm this," Prof David Tuveson, from the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute, said.

"Drugs which strip away these tags are already showing promise in lung cancer and this study suggests they could also be effective."

"This study strengthens our emerging understanding that we must also look into the biology of cells to identify all the genes that play a role in cancer," Dr David Adams, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said.

They insisted that up to 15 percent of pancreatic cancers could be treated by turning this one gene off.

"These results raise the possibility that a class of promising new cancer drugs may be effective at treating some pancreatic cancers," Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK's senior science information manager, added. (ANI)

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