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Stem cell gene stops tumors from spreading

A missing gene in renegade stem cells may hold the key to new medications capable of blocking the growth of tumors.

According to European Institute of Oncology (Ieo-Ifom) biologist Pier Giuseppe Pelicci, ''if we want to block the growth of tumors, we have to learn how to hit their stem cells''.

Pelicci leads a group of scientists from the Ieo-Ifom and University of Milan who think that what they call the ''Achilles' Heel'' to cancer stem cells might be a gene called p53.

The p53 gene keeps healthy stem cells on the job churning out specialised tissues instead of dividing into other stem cells. But Pelicci and his colleagues said the gene is missing in many stem cells found in tumors.

Fellow Ieo-Ifom biologist Angelo Cicalese said that an experiment to reintroduce the gene in cancerous stem cells in rats kept the tumors from growing.

Cicalese cautioned however that clinical testing is five to ten years away and the drug was extremely hard to produce.

by S. C.
19 september 2009, World News > Italy

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