Huntsman researchers identify key protein in childhood bone cancer

Huntsman researchers identify key protein in childhood bone cancer

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Scientists at the Huntsman Cancer Institute say they've discovered a gene that seems to suppress the effects of chemotherapy on some patients with Ewing's sarcoma.

The bone-cancer typically inflicts children and young adults. In most cases, it can be cured through chemotherapy. But in some patients, that therapy has not worked.

Now researchers say they've identified a protein, known as GSTM4, that is found in high levels among those patients. They think the protein, for some reason, suppresses chemotherapy's effects.

"So, identify those patients where the protein is expressed at high levels, turn the protein off, and now the model would be that they would be responsive to chemotherapy," said Dr. Stephen Lessnick.

Lessnick continued, "We envision a day where we're going to measure the levels of this protein and other proteins like it and be able to figure out, you know: 'This patient needs chemotherapy X and this patient needs chemotherapy Y.'"

The discovery was made while researchers were studying so-called "junk" DNA. It's material Lessnick says scientists had thought didn't have much function and was more or less "left over" from evolution.

Results of the study are published in the online journal Oncogene.


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Marc Giauque


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