Date Published: 12 September 2008
Inactivation of gatekeeper gene paves way for bowel cancer
Singaporean scientists have discovered that inactivation or a lack of a so-called 'gatekeeper' gene called RUNX3 paves the way for the development of bowel cancer.
RUNX3 has previously been shown to play a role in stomach, breast, lung and bladder cancers.
The latest research, which was carried out using human tissue and animals, shows that it is inactivated at a very early stage of bowel cancer.
"We are extremely excited about how our research findings can be translated into practical clinical applications to help patients." - Dr Yoshiaki Ito, professor of medical oncology, National University of Singapore
This raises the possibility that early stage bowel cancer could be treated by detecting inactivated RUNX3 and switching it back on.
"My team and I have been working on our research for the past six years, and we are extremely excited about how our research findings can be translated into practical clinical applications to help patients suffering from cancers such as bladder, breast, colon and lung," said Dr Yoshiaki Ito, lead researcher and professor of medical oncology at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
"We certainly look forward to our continuous teamwork with our clinical colleagues in improving the lives of cancer patients."
The researchers, who previously discovered that RUNX3 helps to stop the development of stomach cancer, analysed mouse and human tissue samples to examine how the gene is involved in bowel cancer.
They found that RUNX3 blocks the activity of beta-catenin and TCF4, a protein complex that plays an important role in cancer development.
When RUNX3 is absent, the body loses its ability to get rid of abnormal cells, paving the way for the development of cancers such as bowel, bladder, breast and lung cancer.
Dr John Wong, director of Singapore's National University Cancer Institute, commented:
"Professor Ito's research offers exciting, fresh hope as it lays the groundwork for a diagnostic kit for early detection of colon (bowel) cancer as well as a possible therapeutic target."
The findings are published in the journal Cancer Cell.
Source: Cancer Research UK.