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Scientists discover gene behind rare self-healing skin cancer

03-01-2011 08:24 BJT

SINGAPORE, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- An international research team has discovered the gene that could explain why a rare skin cancer heals itself after growing quickly for a few weeks, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research of Singapore said Monday.

The scientists has discovered the peculiar behavior of the rare disease called multiple self-healing squamous epithelioma is caused by a failure in the gene TGFBR1, the agency said.

The gene is a key component of a signaling pathway that can also be impaired in other cancers, and the pathway is widely regarded as a potential target for therapeutic intervention in cancer treatment, it said.

"The unusual behavior of this tumor has baffled scientists for over 40 years, so we are excited to have discovered the genetic faults that cause the disease," said David Goudie, a clinical genetics consultant at Dundee University and a long term specialist in the rare skin cancer.

"Understanding how tumors that lack TGFBR1 behave will surely help us to predict the clinical effects of drugs that target these cancer-promoting or cancer-inhibiting signals," he added.

The team included scientists from Scotland, Singapore and other places.

Nevertheless, Birgit Lane, the team leader and executive director of the Institute of Medical Biology under the Singapore agency, said the gene is also part of a very important cell signaling system essential for many normal processes.

"Though it has been implicated in many other cancers before now, one cannot just go around blocking its function indiscriminately. We hope that this new found knowledge on an unusual self-healing tumor will open a door to new ways of tweaking the cell machinery more selectively in cancer therapy," Lane said.

The finding was published on Monday in the latest issue of Nature Genetics, a quality research journal in genetics.

Editor:Zheng Limin |Source: Xinhua

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