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dna mutations
dna sequences
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types of cancer
Genes And Cancer
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Genes And Cancer

Genes

A gene is not enough

For many years it was thought that one could find "the" cure for cancer. Then he realized that every type of cancer was a story in itself. Today, most experts believe that there is only one approach that applies to everyone, even for apparently similar diseases. The traditional distinction of tumors in relation to their home and the tissue from which they originate is not so obvious.

By examining in detail the molecular mechanisms underlying the formation of tumors, in fact, the researchers found that a particular type of cancer can be caused by several thousands of DNA errors. However, there are mutations that occur in different types of cancer and probably play a crucial role in triggering the process leading to the disease: that it is likely that soon there will be no cure for lung cancer or colon, but tumors by either mutation of the DNA, regardless of location in which they develop.

Finding errors

An important line of research is to find rapid methods, reliable and economic means to better analyze the DNA of cancer cells taken from the patient. From this identikit, many researchers are trying to make ever more precise, in the future will increasingly depend on the care that the patient will undergo. Already, for several targeted therapies, is the genetic analysis to predict who will benefit most from treatment, but other studies have found out who can take advantage of traditional chemotherapy is the case of two recent works, to Lisa Licitra, at ' National Cancer Institute of Milan, on tumors of the mouth and that of Bologna Katia Scotland, Ewing's sarcoma, both funded by AIRC.

Repair defects

The DNA mutations that promote cancer can be inherited from parents or induced by environmental factors of different types: Depending on the point of occurrence can trigger cancer by activating DNA sequences that directly or indirectly pushing the cell to replicate (oncogenes ) or by disabling DNA sequences that contrary to slow cell growth (tumor suppressor) or push her to suicide program called apoptosis.

Scientists are looking at ways to repair these errors or at least, knowing them, to find substances capable of counteracting the effects: for example, Paolo Comoglio Institute for Research and Treatment of Cancer Candiolo (Turin) will coordinate with the funds derived from the AIRC to 5 per thousand, a job that will also involve the Niguarda Hospital in Milan, will target two mutated genes, called MET and RON, which seem essential for the growth of metastatic tumors of the intestine.

Supporting the corrections

But there is also another very topical area of ​​research, followed by several researchers supported by AIRC, which emphasizes the importance of the so-called genomic instability in the genesis of cancer. Even in the DNA of a healthy cell because errors occur constantly in the process of duplication of chromosomes, but there are very efficient repair mechanisms that obviate the inconveniences suffered by avoiding harmful consequences. Sometimes cancer is triggered when these processes fail: research objective is to find a way to restore them and strengthening them. IFOM, Milan, for example, under the guidance of Marco Foiani, many researchers with the support of AIRC are responding to this challenge.

Small but effective

RNA, we study in school, used to translate the information contained in genes into proteins. But some small RNA sequences have a different function, regulatory type. Many laboratories and many young researchers, thanks to the contributions of the AIRC, focus their attention on the interference of these microRNAs and engaged in the production of key proteins for cell growth. In some types of cancer, such as lung and stomach cancer, and mesothelioma in some leukemias, but also in multiple myeloma, their role has been confirmed: it remains to understand how to use them to treat cancer.

Above the DNA

Another important line of research began with the discovery that the expression of several genes can be modulated by molecules that attach externally to the DNA. It is epigenetics, know better what is hoped to be able to deal more blows to the indiscriminate growth of cancer cells: from Rome to Florence, there are various projects that the AIRC is funding in this field.


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