Washington: Scientists claim to have identified a new genetic pathway impacting the spread of cancer cells in the body, a major finding which may pave the way for effective treatments for the disease.
Regular cell division is regulated by methylation, a series of chemical changes. Methylation modifies DNA to ensure cells divide at a healthy, balanced rate. In cancer, the methylation process is unbalanced, causing cells to resist regulation and divide uncontrollably.
Now, a team at Lawson Health Research Institute, led by Dr Joseph Torchia, analysed a hormone, called Transforming Growth Factor Beta (TGF-?), and its effects on DNA methylation to reveal a pathway, using genetic sequencing, the `Molecular Cell` journal reported.
When TGF-comes into contact with a cell it activates the tumour-suppressing gene, which stops the cells from dividing.
According to Dr Torchia`s group, ZNF217, a cancer-causing gene, can interfere with this process by binding to the DNA. This prevents the tumour-suppressing genes from activating, and the cells continue to divide, a release said.
These results characterise the dynamic processes underlying cell division, suggesting genetic influencers must be balanced to keep cell division under control. Most importantly, they provide hope for new cancer therapies.
"This link between methylation and TGF-? has never been shown before. If we understand how methylation is regulated, and identify the machinery that`s involved, we may be able to target some of the machinery therapeutically and turn these genes back on to fight the cancer," Dr Torchia said.