Within our body the P53 gene plays a role in regulating cell death, tumor suppression, cell cycle regulation and preventing cell division when DNA has become damaged. Just this week a group of scientists from Melbourne have discovered the mechanism in which P53 prevents the development of cancer. Discovering exactly how the process works can potentially aid doctors in identifying patients who have an elevated risk of certain forms of cancer, along with the potential for safer and more effective forms of treatment. The full study was published in Nature Medicine which details the roles of additional genes, and their importance in regard to the ability of P53 to prevent B-cell lymphomas from forming.
The findings may not be felt immediately as it will take time before they can be implemented clinically, but the discovery itself is a world first. These findings allow other researchers a way to test the importance DNA and genetic repair processes play in other forms of cancer. Patients with a genetic predisposition to cancers due to a mutation of P53 can receive other forms of treatment less harmful to DNA, close to 70% of colon and pancreatic cancer is due to a mutation occurring in P53. During the study scientists screened more than 300 genes regulated by P53, in an attempt to identify which aided in the crucial role of tumor suppression.
One of the team’s biggest findings was the importance of the MLH1 gene, which plays a role in DNA repair through the development of a protein. The loss of MLH1 halted the functionality of P53, but stalled development of tumors when reintroduced. The findings helped the scientists understand just how important the DNA repair process is to the functionality of P53. When the P53 gene isn’t functioning properly it becomes the cause of at least half of all forms of cancer, so discovering the mechanism that powers the gene itself is a truly groundbreaking discovery.