London: Scientists have discovered that a gene improves the effect of chemotherapy, the most common treatment for cancer patients.
Researchers from the Biotech Research and Innovation Centre (BRIC) and Center for Healthy Aging, University of Copenhagen, found that the gene FBH1 helps chemotherapy to fight cancer.
Many cancer patients suffer from serious side-effects after undergoing chemotherapy and a large proportion does not respond to the treatment.
"Our results show that the gene FBH1 is crucial in order for some chemotherapeutics to become active in the body and kill the cancer cells. If we can find a feasible method to increase the activity of the gene, we can use our cells` own resources to improve cancer treatment," said lead researcher Claus Sorensen.
The researchers have used a method called RNA interference to study whether some of the genes in our DNA are important for cancer cells to react to certain chemotherapeutics.
"By using the method to remove single genes from cancer cells and then exposing the cells to chemotherapy, we found that FBH1 is important for the effect of the chemotherapy," said Kasper Fugger who led the experimental part of the investigation.
"Actually, the presence of the gene was an absolutely requirement in order to effectively kill the cancer cells with the type of chemotherapeutics we have studied," Fugger said in a statement.
Chemotherapy acts by exposing cancer cells to a kind of extreme stress when they divide. The result is detrimental damage to the cells` DNA that cannot be repaired, causing the cells to die.
The new results show that it is in fact FBH1 that contributes to the formation of DNA damage when treating with chemotherapy and this knowledge can be used to optimise cancer therapy.
In the last decade it has become clear that targeted treatment to individual cancer patients is crucial for an effective treatment with least possible side-effects.
By assessing the presence of FBH1 in a tumour the doctors can get an indication of whether the patient will benefit from chemotherapy.
"Our results could help indicate that patients with low or no FBH1 in the cancer cells will not benefit from certain types of chemotherapy, but should be administered another type of treatment. So by using the genetic fingerprint of a tumour doctors can adjust the treatment to individual patients," said Sorensen.
"Our hope is to find a method to boost the activity of the FBH1 gene in cancer cells since this will make them more sensitive to chemotherapy," Fugger added.
The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.