Latest Issue of Science News


Cancer Flip-Flop: Gene acts in both proliferation and control of growth

Decades ago, cancer geneticists latched on to an attractively simple model in which only two types of genes control the disease's spread: Oncogenes trigger cancers and their growth, but tumor-suppressor genes keep cancer cells in check.

Now, Patrick Mehlen of the University of Lyon in Villeurbanne, France, and his colleagues describe, in the Sept. 2 Nature, what may be a third class of cancer-controlling genes. Dubbed "conditional suppressors," these genes switch between halting and promoting cancer, depending on the presence or absence of a particular protein.

"What [these genes do] is put the brakes on cancer under one set of circumstances and [step] on the accelerator under another set of circumstances," says study coauthor Dale Bredesen of the Buck Institute for Age Research in Novato, Calif.

Note: To comment, Science News subscribing members must now establish a separate login relationship with Disqus. Click the Disqus icon below, enter your e-mail and click “forgot password” to reset your password. You may also log into Disqus using Facebook, Twitter or Google.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join SSP today or Log in.