New Discoveries and Honors in Cancer Research

Read the latest cancer research and recognition from the members of the Damon Runyon scientific circle.
July 12, 2011
Alternative telomere lengthening in cancer cells

Hai Yan, MD, PhD (Damon Runyon Scholar ‘05-‘07) of Duke University, Durham, Kenneth W. Kinzler, PhD (Innovation Award Committee Member) of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, and colleagues identified two genes that may regulate telomere length in cancer cells. Telomeres are “DNA caps” that protect the ends of chromosomes; telomerase is the enzyme that is normally used to maintain telomeres. These researchers found that rapidly dividing cancer cells can use an alternative means of maintaining telomere length, through the genes ATRX and DAXX. Mutations in these genes have been found in pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors and in several brain cancer types, including pediatric and adult glioblastoma; preliminary studies indicate that patients with these mutations in their tumors had better survival than those without the mutations. The results could have important implications in the future for determining patient prognosis and developing new treatments. The study was published in the journal Science.