USC cancer research named major advance
Posted December 4, 2012 at 11:01 pm in News
The research first appeared in the May 15 issue of Cancer Cell, a peer-reviewed journal, and looked into identifying specific genes that must be turned off for cancer cells to survive.
USC Norris Director Peter Jones, the studyâ€™s principal investigator, is known for his studies on cancer at the molecular level and the basic interactions of DNAâ€™s role in cancer. Co-authors include Keck postdoctoral researchers Daniel De Carvalho, Shikhar Sharma, Jueng Soo You, Sheng-Fang Su, Phillippa Taberlay, Theresa Kelly, Xiaojing Yang and Gangning Liang.
â€śThe goal of the research was to discover what makes a cancer cell a cancer cell,â€ť Jones said.
Because cancer cells come from bodies made of healthy cells, researchers look at what changes to make them become cancerous.
Jonesâ€™ study looked at certain genes, which are segments of DNA, that prevent cancer cells from dying normally after they undergo a common biochemical process called DNA methylation. Cancer cells show abnormal DNA methylation, and the research suggests that the methylation process is linked to the production of tumors.
â€śThe cancer cell is the automobile, and the driver is the significant gene,â€ť Jones said. â€śThere are countless passengers but only a few drivers. Our aim is to find the few significant drivers, the gene that changes the cancer cell.â€ť
The â€śpassengersâ€ť are the genes that are not related to making the cell cancerous. The â€śdriverâ€ť genes are the focus of the research as they are suspected to be the genes that trigger normal cells to turn into cancer cells.
In the long run, this process could potentially lead to more targeted cancer treatments that would cause cancer cells to die more easily.
Jones said he was proud to have his study featured.
â€śIt was an honor to be selected, as many advances have been made in [the Journal of Clinical Oncology],â€ť Jones said. â€śCancer Cell is the top journal, a high impact journal, so it was a real honor for the research to be recognized.â€ť