Old cancer drugs offer new tricks | Science News



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Old cancer drugs offer new tricks

By altering gene activity, approach sensitizes cells to chemotherapy

5:32pm, April 2, 2012

CHICAGO —Traditional therapies go all out to kill cancer cells, but a new approach works by first persuading tumor and blood cancer cells to alter their rogue behavior — and then wiping the tumor cells out.

Drugs that alter some chemical tags on DNA make cancer cells behave more like normal cells, geneticist Stephen Baylin of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reported April 1 at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting. And the drugs seem to make cancer cells more susceptible to chemotherapy and attacks from the immune system.

Baylin and colleagues reported in the March 20 Cancer Cell that two drugs called azacitidine and decitabine, when used in low doses, change gene activity in leukemia and breast cancer cells in the lab. If DNA is a cell’s hard drive, then chemical tags attached to the DNA or DNA-packaging proteins called histones serve as software packages to tell the hard drive how to function. This typ

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