Scientists Find Possible “Key” to Potential Cancer Prevention, Treatment

A research team led by Gaorav Gupta, MD, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine and member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, discovered the inner workings of an immune response pathway that could aid in cancer prevention and treatment.

Every time a cancer cell divides, it sustains damage to its own DNA molecules. Researchers, including Gaorav Gupta, MD, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the UNC School of Medicine, have long wondered how cancers are able to evade detection by the body’s own defenses, despite the immune system being on constant watch for cells displaying DNA damage. New findings by Gupta’s lab, which were published January 10, 2024 in Nature, shows how the cGAS-STING pathway – a pathway inside cells essential for activating the inflammatory immune response – is unleashed to prevent cancer formation by detecting DNA damage within cells. In the process, the research team discovered the “key” that “unlocks” the cGAS/STING pathway, which is normally turned off to prevent excessive inflammation in healthy conditions. The open-access article is titled “MRE11 Liberates cGAS from Nucleosome Sequestration During Tumorigenesis.”

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