October 7, 2008

New Theory Created for the Start of Cancer

A U.S. study using fruit flies has become the first to show in animals that losing just the end of a chromosome can lead to abnormalities, including cancer.

University of Utah Professor Kent Golic and postdoctoral fellow Simon Titen say when a cell's chromosomes lose their ends, or telomere, the cell usually kills itself to stem the genetic damage. But Golic and Titen say they've discovered how those cells can evade suicide and start down the path to cancer.

To protect an organism against cancer, most cells with broken or missing telomeres undergo "apoptosis," also known as cell suicide. But Golic and Titen determined how fruit fly cells with a missing telomere sometimes avoid suicide and, instead, continue to divide and develop early characteristics of cancer.

The research is reported online in the journal Genetics and will appear in the journal's December print issue.