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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 March, 2004, 02:46 GMT
Gene fault linked to many cancers
Breast tumour
The faulty gene was linked to a small number of breast cancers
Scientists have identified a gene fault linked to the development of a range of cancers.

Researchers from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Maryland, found it was connected with the growth of bowel, brain, stomach, breast and lung tumours.

Writing in the journal Science, they said they hoped the discovery could lead to new tests and treatments.

UK experts said it may be possible to develop drugs to correct the fault.

It may even be possible to find new drugs that restore the gene's normal activity and help treat these types of cancer
Dr Simon Vincent,
Cancer Research UK
The US team analysed DNA samples from around 270 cancer patients.

They found faults in a gene which influences how cells grow, change shape and move in a range of cancers.

A third of bowel cancer samples had the fault in the PIK3CA gene, as did 27% of brain tumours, 25% of stomach cancers, 8% of breast cancers and 4% of lung cancers.

The researches said the mutations made the gene more active, triggering cell changes which lead to cancer.

The gene, and others in its family, provide the coded instructions for making enzymes called lipid kinases that modify fat molecules.

'Gene errors'

Dr Victor Velculescu, from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, said: "These findings open the door to developing specific therapies that may prove useful for the treatment of cancers with mutations in PIK3CA."

Dr Simon Vincent of Cancer Research UK said: "The PIK3CA gene plays an important part in keeping our cells under control when they are growing and dividing.

"This research has shown for the first time that when errors creep in to the gene and alter the way that it works it can lead to cancer.

"Now that we know where in the gene these errors occur, we may be able to work out why they make the gene stop working properly.

"It may even be possible to find new drugs that restore the gene's normal activity and help treat these types of cancer."

Unusual DNA may be key to cancer
04 Mar 04  |  Health

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