March 31, 2009

Researchers identify another cancer gene

A team of British, Chinese and U.S. researchers has identified a new cancer gene called UTX, on the X chromosome.

The scientists said the gene is found in 10 percent of multiple myeloma cases and in 8 percent of esophageal cancers.

The researchers said UTX plays a role in overall regulation of the activity of many genes and it's possible they might find other genes with similar roles involved in different tumor types.

The scientists said their finding is the first example of mutations in a gene of its functional class, with the discovery stemming from a study of mutations in 4,000 genes in kidney cancer.

UTX is an important component of the transcriptional control machinery -- it influences some of the most fundamental mechanisms controlling gene activity in our cells, said Andy Futreal, co-leader of the Cancer Genome Project at Britain's Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Unlike many cancer genes, UTX does not appear to be directly involved in cell division or cell death, but in basic gene regulation (it) shows the depths to which cancers will plumb in order to get themselves ready to go.

The study is available online in the journal Nature Genetics ahead of print.