Researchers of Illinois University have found the gene (called as Foxm1b) in animals in vivo that lead to liver cancer. When the gene has been successfully “removed” from the experimental mice, these animals don’t produce tumors. Even use some experimental techniques to artificially create a number of factors inducing tumor in the laboratory, these mice won’t produce tumors.
Robert Costa, the leader of the study as well as professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics, said: “As far as I know, this is the first time for human being to find the gene that directly links to the growth of tumor cells in living animals’ bodies.”
Earlier studies have proven that Foxm1b plays an essential role in tissue repair and replenishment process, therefore Costa called it as "youth source gene”. Foxm1b can be activated by some growth hormone, but to the elderly or for some rare diseases, the gene will be expressed as a dysfunction, which causes premature aging. This gene is part of the gene family that controls cells’ overall life cycle, and can control cell proliferation, maturation and death.
In the current study, scientists of Costa laboratory use some genetically modified mice to establish the link between the Foxm1b and liver cancer, and this proves that the gene is essential in the process of reproduction of cancer cells. What’s more, Foxm1b has expression in many different types of tumor cells, which convince scientists that besides liver cancer, the gene also plays an important role in other tumor cells’ growth.
Scientists have also manufactured a prodrug to block the activation of the Foxm1b, thereby cutting off the supply of the protein produced by Foxm1b transcription to "starve" tumor cells, thereby preventing the proliferation of tumor cells. This prodrug is a variant of tumor suppressor protein p19ARF.
This drug not only prevents activation of Foxm1b, but also inhibits the growth of tumor communities. Costa and his colleagues are so excited and pleased as they may find a thorough treatment of liver cancer.
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