From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published January 7, 2011 09:42 AM

Malignant Cancer-Causing Molecule Identified

A cancerous cell is not a problem if it is benign. However, if it becomes malignant, it can cause major health problems and even be fatal. Scientists have identified a molecule known as PML which directly affects whether or not a cancer cell becomes malignant. This line of study may prove to be a breakthrough in cancer research if scientists can figure out how malignant tumors can be converted to benign tumors.


The research was conducted at the University of Montreal's Department of Biochemistry and the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre. The team was led by Dr. Gerardo Rebeyre of the University of Montreal.

"We discovered that benign cancer cells produce the PML molecule and display abundant PML bodies, keeping them in a dormant, senescent state. Malignant cancer cells either don't make or fail to organize PML bodies, and thus proliferate uncontrollably," said Ferbeyre.

A dormant, senescent state is one in which the cell has matured and is no longer able to reproduce. PML is the body's natural defense against the cancer spreading to other cells and other parts of the body. Previously, the mechanism for how PML worked was a mystery. However, the team’s research has managed to shine a light on it by collecting samples from hospital patients.

"Our findings unravel the unexpected ability of PML to organize a network of tumor suppressor proteins to repress the expression or the amount of other proteins required for cell proliferation," explained researcher Véronique Bourdeau. Researcher Mathieu Vernier emphasized that "this is an important finding with implications for our understanding on how the normal organism defends itself from the threat of cancer."

The research can be found in the journal, Genes and Development, and was funded by the Canadian Cancer Society and the Fonds de la recherché en Sante du Quebec. The researcher's work creates exciting avenues for future research. According to Ferbeyre, "Our discovery opens new possibilities to explore what other molecules are involved in generating senescence: a goal we consider important if we want to design therapies that turn malignant tumors into benign tumors."

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