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Aiding and Abetting: A longevity gene also promotes cancer

A gene that helps organisms survive damage to their cells can also shorten their lives by fostering tumors, tests on mice and human-cell lines show.

The gene, called heat-shock factor 1 (Hsf1), doesn't itself trigger cancer. Instead, it appears to help cells survive the stressful process of becoming cancerous, which involves extensive damage to DNA and the malfunctioning of many proteins.

The discovery reveals a dark side of Hsf1, which is known to promote longevity in lab-grown roundworms and to protect people against the brain-cell damage of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. Some researchers are developing drugs that might ease the brain diseases by boosting Hsf1 activity.

Now it appears that hindering Hsf1 could be a new way to combat cancer.

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