Study Finds Non-Protein-Coding Fusion Genes Are Frequent in Breast Cancer

A fusion gene occurs when a chromosomal break brings two separate genes together into a new functioning gene. So far, the research has focused on protein-coding fusion genes. However, human genes consist not only of protein-coding components, but also of components that lack this ability. The latter have not attracted any interest so far, argues Dr. Carlos Rovira (photo), cancer researcher and Associate Professor of Oncology at Lund University in Sweden. "We study genes that lack the ability to produce proteins, and we were very surprised to discover that this type of study has not been done before - the 'non-coding' components of fusion genes have never been analyzed globally in this context. This means that previous analyses have ruled out important genetic components, and that fusion gene data should be re-analyzed to possibly find more markers and potential targets for cancer treatment", says Dr. Rovira, who has been researching breast cancer for many years. "In our study, we discovered a new class of fusion genes that primarily affect the activity of microRNA. These genes are small and often located inside larger protein-coding genes, but they are very short and lack the code required to control protein production. It has already been shown that microRNAs are important for the development of cancer, but the relationship between them and fusion genes was previously unexplored."
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