Cancer researchers have identified a gene that promotes the growth of colon cancers, potentially creating a new avenue for treating many cases of the disease. The gene, called CDK8, drives the proliferation of colon cancer cells, and therefore the growth of tumours.
The gene appears to be overactivated in many colon cancer cells, report the US and Spanish research team led by William Hahn. That means that suppressing its activity could offer a new way to restrict the growth of tumours with this particular defect, they suggest online in this week's Nature.
The research team made the discovery by screening tumour cells in the lab for genes that promote their proliferation. They then checked their findings against genetic data from tissue samples taken from human colon cancers and found that the CDK8 gene was amplified in many cases, leading to increased activity. CDK8, the activity of which influences a suite of other genes, is the latest newly discovered cancer gene among the many that influence the complex genetics of the disease.