Medical

Reactivation of a single gene turns colorectal cancer cells back into normal tissue

Reactivation of a single gene ...
A cancerous intestinal growth (left) was restored to normal function (right) after researchers reactivated a key gene
A cancerous intestinal growth (left) was restored to normal function (right) after researchers reactivated a key gene
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Mutated, cancerous colorectal cells can be returned to normal by switching a single gene back on
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Mutated, cancerous colorectal cells can be returned to normal by switching a single gene back on
A cancerous intestinal growth (left) was restored to normal function (right) after researchers reactivated a key gene
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A cancerous intestinal growth (left) was restored to normal function (right) after researchers reactivated a key gene

Future cancer treatments may target your genes rather than the cancerous cells themselves. A new study found that reactivating a single gene was enough to stop and reverse colorectal cancer (that's cancer of the colon, or bowels) in mice, with a return to normal intestinal functions within just four days and tumors gone within two weeks. The concept, though not the specific method, could lead to new treatments of a variety of cancers.

Nearly 700,000 people around the world die from colorectal cancer each year, which makes it one of the biggest cancer killers (lung cancer is the most common, at more than 1.5 million deaths, while cancers of the liver result in around 750,000 deaths a year and deaths from cancers of the stomach stand a little over 700,000). In the United States, where colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and in women (or second most common combined across both sexes), diagnoses for the disease numbered over 135,000 people in 2011.

It's highly prevalent, but current treatments at the advanced stages are toxic and ineffective. The researchers noted, however, that 80 to 90 percent of colorectal tumors contain the same gene mutation. They sought to reverse that mutation to see what would happen.

Mutated, cancerous colorectal cells can be returned to normal by switching a single gene back on
Mutated, cancerous colorectal cells can be returned to normal by switching a single gene back on

They treated mice with colorectal cancer in their colon, which is where it normally forms in humans, and found that not only did tumors stop growing but the intestinal cells also recovered normal function – even in tumors with Kras and p53 mutations. They then shrank and disappeared or turned into normal tissue within two weeks. After six months of monitoring, the mice remained cancer free.

This does not necessarily mean that the researchers have found a cure for colorectal cancer. The researchers still need to explore the wider consequences of the treatment and to determine why it is so effective in mice, then they need to adapt the technique for human treatments.

The approach may have big implications in broader cancer treatment. "If we can define which types of mutations and changes are the critical events driving tumor growth, we will be better equipped to identify the most appropriate treatments for individual cancers," says study first author Lukas Dow of Weill Cornell Medical College.

A paper describing the research was published in the journal Cell.

Source: Meyer Cancer Center

6 comments
blackhawkrider
At least they are close to finding a cure; if not a cure, then a method to prevent it from getting worse. I just hope further research will tell us if there are any negative side effect with this method.
Derek Howe
good, It's about time we kick butt cancers butt. Now they just need to make the screening process less...camera up butt.
galaxydrifter
Perhaps no negative side effects now in a lab setting. You can bet your last dollar there will be horrible side effects once the drug companies figure out how to put it in a pill and patent it. Think of all the lives we could save if the drug companies just vanish. Figure out how to save people and do it because its right.
Kevin Ritchey
FINALLY, someone is attacking the root cause and not the symptoms. Cancer operates by altering genetic information and the solution will be found there as well as means of prevention. And not just cancer. Think about it.
Intellcity
Are we going to learn to live forever before we kill ourselves off? http://www.gizmag.com/earth-sixth-mass-extinction-event/38116/
Dave82
Why aren't things like this rolled out for human trials sooner. I know that new methods must be assessed for safety in humans but surely anyone staring down the barrel of a nasty death from cancer would gladly put themselves forward and take the risk associated.