New role for DNA unraveler in preventing brain tumours and other cancers

October 11, 2013, Cancer Research UK
New role for DNA unraveler in preventing brain tumours and other cancers

(Medical Xpress)—A molecule originally implicated in DNA repair may also be a crucial factor in preventing tumours such as medulloblastoma, a type of childhood brain tumour, according to research published today in Science.

The molecule, called RTEL1, is known to be responsible for maintaining the ends of our chromosomes, the structures that contain the genetic material DNA. Now Cancer Research UK scientists have discovered that it also plays a critical role throughout the entire genome.

Dr Simon Boulton and his team, based at the charity's London Research Institute, found that RTEL1 works together with another molecule called PCNA. Like a hair tie, RTEL1 helps PCNA as it forms a ring around the DNA allowing it to remove knots and untangle DNA as it gets copied. This process is essential for correctly copying DNA, so that cells can grow and divide without making genetic mistakes.

When RTEL1 contains a fault preventing it from binding to PCNA, DNA replication is disrupted and mistakes are made, which can lead to cancer. When the researchers looked in mice whose RTEL1 gene was flawed in this way, they found a substantial increase in the incidence of several types of cancer, including lymphoma and medulloblastoma, the most common type of cancer.

Previous studies had shown that there was a potential link between RTEL1 and brain cancers, although it wasn't understood why. This study confirms that RTEL1 is definitively involved in preventing cancer by stopping mistakes from being made during DNA replication, but more research is needed to understand why it appears to be particularly associated with tumours.

Dr Simon Boulton, based at Cancer Research UK's London Research Institute, said: "This research exemplifies why it's so important to study fundamental cellular processes in model systems. With the aid of new technologies, we have uncovered an unexpected role for the RTEL1 protein, and shown that this new role in maintaining and replicating DNA may hold the key to some types of cancer."

Dr Simon Boulton was recently named as one of the recipients of the 2013 Paul Marks Prize for cancer research from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in America.

Dr Kat Arney, Cancer Research UK's senior science communications manager, said: "Unravelling the inner workings of cancer cells is essential if we are to truly make progress in beating . This is an important step forward in understanding the molecular machinery that copies our DNA and what happens when it goes wrong. And it could open the door to future approaches for prevention, diagnosis or treatment."

Explore further: Scientists find new gene linked to ovarian cancer

More information: Vannier et al, RTEL1 Is a Replisome-Associated Helicase That Promotes Telomere and Genome-Wide Replication (2013) Science.

Related Stories

Scientists find new gene linked to ovarian cancer

September 5, 2013
Cancer Research UK scientists have found a gene in mice that could protect against ovarian cancer and, if faulty, may increase the chance of developing the disease, according to research published in Nature.

No viral cause for breast cancer and brain tumors

October 8, 2013
A major study conducted at the Sahlgrenska Academy has now disproved theories of a viral cause for breast cancer and the brain tumour, glioblastoma. The study, which was based on over seven billion DNA sequences and which ...

Experimental drugs for breast cancer could treat lung cancer too

August 13, 2013
Cancer Research UK -funded scientists have discovered that experimental drugs first developed for breast and ovarian cancer could be used to treat the most common type of lung cancer, reveals research published in Oncogene ...

Scientists discover new role for cell dark matter in genome integrity

October 3, 2013
University of Montreal researchers have discovered how telomerase, a molecule essential for cancer development, is directed to structures on our genome called telomeres in order to maintain its integrity and in turn, the ...

Bowel cancers reshuffle their genetic pack to cheat treatment

February 27, 2013
Bowel cancer cells missing one of three genes can rapidly reshuffle their genetic 'pack of cards' – the chromosomes that hold the cell's genetic information. This reshuffling has been previously shown to render tumours ...

Study shows potential new way to detect colorectal and other cancers

April 25, 2013
A unique new study led by University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center researchers Guo-Min Li and Libya Gu, in collaboration with Dr. Wei Yang at National Institutes of Health, reveals a novel mechanism explaining the previously ...

Recommended for you

Enzyme inhibitor combined with chemotherapy delays glioblastoma growth

January 23, 2018
In animal experiments, a human-derived glioblastoma significantly regressed when treated with the combination of an experimental enzyme inhibitor and the standard glioblastoma chemotherapy drug, temozolomide.

'Hijacker' drives cancer in some patients with high-risk neuroblastoma

January 23, 2018
Researchers have identified mechanisms that drive about 10 percent of high-risk neuroblastoma cases and have used a new approach to show how the cancer genome "hijacks" DNA that regulates other genes. The resulting insights ...

Scientists block the siren call of two aggressive cancers

January 23, 2018
Aggressive cancers like glioblastoma and metastatic breast cancer have in common a siren call that beckons the bone marrow to send along whatever the tumors need to survive and thrive.

Researchers identify a protein that keeps metastatic breast cancer cells dormant

January 23, 2018
A study headed by ICREA researcher Roger Gomis at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) has identified the genes involved in the latent asymptomatic state of breast cancer metastases. The work sheds light ...

Boosting cancer therapy with cross-dressed immune cells

January 22, 2018
Researchers at EPFL have created artificial molecules that can help the immune system to recognize and attack cancer tumors. The study is published in Nature Methods.

Workouts may boost life span after breast cancer

January 22, 2018
(HealthDay)—Longer survival after breast cancer may be as simple as staying fit, new research shows.

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.