More than 500,000 people in the United States die each year of cancer-related causes. Now, emerging research has identified the mechanism behind one of the most common mutations that helps cancer cells to replicate limitlessly.
Approximately 85 percent of cancer cells obtain their limitless replicative potential through the reactivation of a specific protein called telomerase (TERT). Recent cancer research has shown that highly recurrent mutations in the promoter of the TERT gene are the most common genetic mutations in many cancers, including adult glioblastoma and hepatocellular carcinoma.
TERT stabilizes chromosomes by elongating the protective element at the end of each chromosome in a cell. Scientists have discovered that cells harboring these mutations aberrantly increase TERT expression, effectively making them immortal.
Now, a collaborative team of researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and at the University of California, San Francisco, has uncovered the mechanisms by which mutations result in elevated TERT expression. The team’s findings
, published in the May 14 issue of Science
, have exciting implications for new, more precise and personalized cancer treatments with fewer side effects compared with current treatments.