Pulverised chromosomes linked to cancer?

Updated: Jan 21, 2012, 16:11 PM IST

Washington: Scientists claim to have found evidence which points to the fact that pulverised chromosomes could well be linked to cancer.

A team at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute says it has chalked out a mechanism by which micronuclei - found in cancer cells - could potentially disrupt the chromosomes within them and thus help produce the disease-causing gene mutations.

The scientists say that the findings could point to a vulnerability in cancer cells and thus pave the way for new and more effective treatment for the disease, the `Nature` journal reported.

"The most common genetic change in cancer is the presence of an incorrect number of intact chromosomes within cancer cells -- a condition known as aneuploidy," said David Pellman, the study`s senior author.

He added: "The significance of aneuploidy has been hard to pin down, however, because little is known about how it might trigger tumours.

"The new study demonstrates one possible chain of events by which aneuploidy and specifically `exiled` chromosomes could lead to cancer-causing mutations, with potential
implications for cancer prevention and treatment."

The scientists say it`s known micronuclei are garbage disposals for chromosomes that the cell doesn`t need anymore.

The findings suggest that whole chromosome aneuploidy might promote cancer in a very similar way to other kinds of genomic alterations. The key event may be mutations in
oncogenes and tumour suppressors. This mechanism may explain how cancer cells acquire more than one mutation at a time.

"Although chromothripsis occurs in only a few percent of human cancers, our findings suggest that it might be an extreme instance of a kind of chromosome damage that could be much more common," Pellman said.

PTI