Anti-cancer strategies generally involve killing off tumor cells. However, cancer cells may instead be coaxed to turn back into normal tissue simply by reactivating a single gene, according to a study published in the June 18, 2015 issue of Cell. The article is titled “Apc Restoration Promotes Cellular Differentiation and Reestablishes Crypt Homeostasis in Colorectal Cancer." Researchers found that restoring normal levels of a human colorectal cancer gene in mice stopped tumor growth and re-established normal intestinal function within only four days. Remarkably, tumors were eliminated within 2 weeks, and signs of cancer were prevented months later. The findings provide proof of principle that restoring the function of a single tumor suppressor gene can cause tumor regression and suggest future avenues for developing effective cancer treatments. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in developed countries, accounting for nearly 700,000 deaths worldwide each year. "Treatment regimens for advanced colorectal cancer involve combination chemotherapies that are toxic and largely ineffective, yet have remained the backbone of therapy over the last decade," says senior study author biologist Scott Lowe, Ph.D., of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York City. Dr. Lowe is Chair of the Cancer Biology & Genetics Program at MSKCC and also Chair of the Geoffrey Beene Cancer Research Center at MSKCC.. Up to 90% of colorectal tumors contain inactivating mutations in a tumor suppressor gene called the adenomatous polyposis coli (Apc) gene. Although these mutations are thought to initiate colorectal cancer, it has not been clear whether Apc inactivation also plays a role in tumor growth and survival once cancer has already developed.
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