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'Sleeping Beauty' helps discover genes behind colorectal cancer

November 7, 2011 - Washington

Scientists have unlocked a list of genes involved in Colorectal cancer, thanks to a jumping gene with the fairy tale name "Sleeping Beauty".

The study used the Sleeping Beauty transposon system to profile the repertoire of genes that can drive Colorectal cancer, identifying many more than previously thought.

Around one third of these genes are mutated in human cancer, which provides strong evidence that they are driver mutations in human tumours.

"These findings, when combined with mutation data from human colon cancers, will drive forward our understanding of the processes that lead to Colorectal cancer," said Dr David Adams from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, who led the study.

"They demonstrate how many genes can contribute to this cancer and how these genes work together in the development of this disease," he explained.

The Sleeping Beauty transposon system induces genetic mutations at random, identifying and tagging candidate cancer genes, the drivers that cause Colorectal cancer.

This system has become critical in uncovering the genetic pathways that cause cancer, and, in this study, the team identify more than 200 genes that can be disrupted in human Colorectal cancers.

"Our research provides a rich source of candidate genes that represent potential diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic targets, and defines the breadth of genes that can contribute to cancer of the intestine," stated Dr Douglas Winton, senior author from the Cancer Research-UK Cambridge Research Institute.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that cancers are driven by mutations in disparate collections of genes and it is essential that we tease apart the important changes," he added.


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