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Scientists discover new molecular mechanism in cancer

Worldwide Cancer Research scientist Dr Eva Petermann and her team at the University of Birmingham have discovered a previously unknown molecular mechanism that could cause the genetic mutations seen in some aggressive cancers.

Genetic mutations enable cancer cells to grow and spread. One way these faulty mutations are introduced is via ‘replication stress’, where DNA becomes damaged as it is duplicated. However, the underlying cause of replication stress has long been a mystery.

This new research, published in Nature Communications reveals that replication stress can be induced by an increase in activity of the cell’s DNA transcription machinery, which helps copy genetic information for use in the cell.

“Our Worldwide Cancer Research-funded project has described a previously unknown molecular mechanism that could lead to the genetic instability seen in aggressive cancers, involving a cell’s own transcription machinery,” says Dr Petermann. “Our findings help to create a new unified view of the roles of transcription and replication in the process of cancer cell mutations.”

“This is a big step in basic cancer biology, and potentially opens up a whole new area of research into transcription proteins and replication stress,” says Dr Petermann.

“A better understanding of replication stress may help improve the efficacy and application of a number of new cancer drugs currently undergoing clinical trials.”

Read more about Dr Petermann’s new research in the full press release here.

Read about Dr Petermann’s project with us here.