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New role for ‘old-timer’ cancer gene

Scientists supported by Worldwide Cancer Research have helped reveal a brand new function for one of the first cancer genes ever discovered, in a finding that could open up exciting new approaches to treatment.

First identified as a cancer gene around 30 years ago, the retinoblastoma gene, also called RB1, is already known to play a central role in stopping healthy cells from dividing uncontrollably. Fault-causing RB1 mutations are found in many common cancers.

Now new research has found that RB1 has another important function, in helping to ‘glue’ severed strands of DNA back together, and that faulty RB1 mutations can prevent the effective fixing of broken DNA strands. This can ultimately lead to the development of tumours and drive cancers to evolve into more aggressive forms.

Professor Sibylle Mittnacht, Worldwide Cancer Research grant holder and a joint leader of the project said:

“We are very excited about this new discovery, [which] points to exciting prospects for new and more effective ways in which these cancers can be treated.”

“We are very grateful for support by Worldwide Cancer Research which has allowed us to generate some very crucial data [in this study].”

 

Read more about this exciting new research on our blog.

See more details about Sibylle Mittnacht’s project with us here.

This article was adapted with thanks from a press release produced with the Institute of Cancer Research, London.