Scientists use worms to unearth cancer drug targets

August 9, 2012

Through novel experiments involving small nematode worms, scientists from Wyoming have discovered several genes that may be potential targets for drug development in the ongoing war against cancer. Specifically, researchers hypothesize that inhibiting these genes could reverse certain key traits associated with cancer cells. This discovery is published in the August 2012 issue of the Genetics Society of America's journal GENETICS.

"Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide," said David S. Fay, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Molecular Biology Department at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. "We hope that by carrying out basic genetic research on one of the most widely implicated human cancer genes, that we can contribute to the arsenal of diverse therapeutic approaches used to treat and cure many types of cancer."

To make this discovery, Dr. Fay and his colleagues used a strain of that carried a mutation in a gene similar to one that is inactivated in many human cancers. This gene, called "LIN-35" in worms and "pRb" in humans, is thought to control at least several aspects of tumor progression including and survival. The researchers systematically inactivated other individual genes in the genome of the mutant LIN-35 worms. As they deactivated various genes, scientists identified those that led to a reversal of defects caused by the loss of LIN-35, suggesting that they could be used as targets for anti-cancer therapies.

"This research is important because it offers possible new ways to shut down the genetic machinery that contributes to and progression," said Mark Johnston, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief of the journal GENETICS. "The causes of cancer are complex and varied, so we must approach this disease from many angles. Using simple 'model organisms,' such as nematode worms to find new , is becoming an increasingly important and effective strategy."

As a companion piece to this article, the journal GENETICS debuts a new educational resource called a Primer. The Primer article, written by Elizabeth A. De Stasio, Ph.D., of Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, provides guidelines for genetics instructors who want to use this contemporary research on nematode worms to teach their students about genetics concepts. The Primer includes background biological information on the worms, explanations of concepts used, and a sample approach to using the article in the classroom with questions for discussion. Additional Primers for instructional use will follow in future issues of GENETICS.

Explore further: New Genetics educational resource promotes active learning

More information: S. R. G. Polley and D. S. Fay. A Network of Genes Antagonistic to the LIN-35 Retinoblastoma Protein of Caenorhabditis elegans Genetics August 2012 Volume 191, Issue 4. www.genetics.org

Related Stories

New Genetics educational resource promotes active learning

August 9, 2012
As upper level undergraduate genetics instructors plan their syllabi for the fall semester, the Genetics Society of America's GENETICS journal offers a new educational resource, articles called "Primers." These articles ...

Gene found in worms could play a role in human cancer

March 30, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Scientists at The University of Nottingham have identified a gene, in a simple water-dwelling worm, that might play an important role in the development of cancer.

Experts identify critical genes mutated in stomach cancer

April 8, 2012
An international team of scientists, led by researchers from the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School (Duke-NUS) in Singapore and National Cancer Centre of Singapore, has identified hundreds of novel genes that are mutated in ...

Recommended for you

Encouraging oxygen's assault on iron may offer new way to kill lung cancer cells

November 22, 2017
Blocking the action of a key protein frees oxygen to damage iron-dependent proteins in lung and breast cancer cells, slowing their growth and making them easier to kill. This is the implication of a study led by researchers ...

One-size treatment for blood cancer probably doesn't fit all, researchers say

November 22, 2017
Though African-American men are three times more likely to be diagnosed with a blood cancer called multiple myeloma, most scientific research on the disease has been based on people of European descent, according to a study ...

One in four U.S. seniors with cancer has had it before

November 22, 2017
(HealthDay)—For a quarter of American seniors, a cancer diagnosis signals the return of an old foe, new research shows.

Combination immunotherapy targets cancer resistance

November 22, 2017
Cancer immunotherapy drugs have had notable but limited success because in many cases, tumors develop resistance to treatment. But researchers at Yale and Stanford have identified an experimental antibody that overcomes this ...

Researchers discover specific tumor environment that triggers cells to metastasize

November 21, 2017
A team of bioengineers and bioinformaticians at the University of California San Diego have discovered how the environment surrounding a tumor can trigger metastatic behavior in cancer cells. Specifically, when tumor cells ...

New study points the way to therapy for rare cancer that targets the young

November 21, 2017
After years of rigorous research, a team of scientists has identified the genetic engine that drives a rare form of liver cancer. The findings offer prime targets for drugs to treat the usually lethal disease, fibrolamellar ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.