What are the risks of turning off tumour suppressor genes?

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Alex asked the Naked Scientists:
   Hey Naked Scientists, love the show - you guys have been a part of me discovering my passion for science. Thank you.

I have finally settled on biochemistry - it's so amazing the things we are starting to be able to do to fix our bodies. I love hearing about new ways to fight these things - like the method you described for breast cancer of turning off other tumour suppressor genes, thereby reducing the capacity of the cancerous cell to repair DNA damage, and quickly leading to death of the cancerous cell.

What kind of obstacles are present in this form of treatment? Would it be fairly safe for nearby non cancerous cells? (I would guess so as it would be much more often the case, due to the types of genes (could cause cancer vs couldn't) and their relative proportions, that a healthy cell would incur a fatal mutation rather than a cancerous one).

Alex Pickering

What do you think?


Offline wanhafizi

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What are the risks of turning off tumour suppressor genes?
« Reply #1 on: 17/09/2009 16:28:33 »
I would be careful answering this question, because there are much stuff we don't know about cancer. So, I'm going to offer you some of my thoughts.

Angiogenesis is one of the main factor that made it is possible for a cancer to grow so much. Otherwise, tumors will stay dormant.

"Angiogenesis is a physiological process involving the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels." - Wikipedia

Sprouting angiogenesis;

"First, biological signals known as angiogenic growth factors activate receptors present on endothelial cells present in pre-existing blood vessels. Second, the activated endothelial cells begin to release enzymes called proteases that degrade the basement membrane in order to allow endothelial cells to escape from the original (parent) vessel walls. The endothelial cells then proliferate into the surrounding matrix and form solid sprouts connecting neighboring vessels. As sprouts extend toward the source of the angiogenic stimulus, endothelial cells migrate in tandem, using adhesion molecules, the equivalent of cellular grappling hooks, called integrins. These sprouts then form loops to become a full-fledged vessel lumen as cells migrate to the site of angiogenesis. Sprouting occurs at a rate of several millimeters per day, and enables new vessels to grow across gaps in the vasculature. " - Wikipedia

This process is suppose to be vital for our self-repairing mechanism, where new blood vessels should regenerate to supply more blood, especially in cases of injuries where blood vessels was cut.

There was an experiment done by planting cancer cells into an eye of a rabbit. Lo and behold, blood vessels started to sprout and rejuvenate the cancer cells in the cornea.

Regarding to the question being asked, if we wipe out this mechanism, probably we will tamper our self-repair ability to some degree.

Now, there are probably more ways and reasons why cancer cells grows so fast, but angiogenesis was one of the most important mechanism which made it possible.

Go Google "Nova Cancer Warrior"