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Scientists discover mechanism behind cancer growth

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Published : Nov. 2, 2011 - 09:19

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SEOUL, Nov. 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korean and U.S. scientists have discovered the mechanism behind the growth and spread of cancer that may help doctors better fight the potentially fatal disease in the future, the government said Wednesday.

According to the science ministry, the team led by Yook Jong-in, a professor of dentistry at Seoul's Yonsei University, said they have found that problems in the "p53" and the "Wnt" genes and their interaction with each other cause cancerous growth.

The p53 is a known anti-cancer gene, while Wnt is a key signaling gene associated with tumors. Many patients who suffer from cancer have been found to have defective p53 genes.

"The significance of the discovery is that the p53 gene has been found to use the so-called micrRNA to interact with Wnt to control cancer growth," the government, which funded the research, said.

While it may be hard for researchers and doctors to repair a damaged p53 gene, it may be possible to control the signals between the microRNA and Wnt, it said.

Such developments could lead to targeted or personalized therapies that can tackle cancer more effectively than present methods.

"If the connection between the p53, Wnntt and microRNA is studied more closely there may be a new way to combat cancer," Yook said.

The research, meanwhile, has been published in the latest online issue of the journal Science Signaling.