A new approach to finding genes important in the onset of cancer is described in this week’s Nature. The findings could help to identify new targets for tumour therapy.
Several genes, or ‘oncogenes’, cooperate with each other to transform normal cells into cancer cells. Hartmut Land and colleagues have now identified a list of other genes ? termed ‘cooperation response genes’ (CRGs) ? that are regulated downstream of these ‘oncogenes’. By interfering with each CRG individually, the team were able to show that 14 out of 24 of them had a critical role in tumour formation. Restoring expression of these genes to the levels observed in normal cells prevented the formation of tumours. What’s more, genetic perturbations of CRGs with relatively smaller effects when examined on their own show evidence of being essential when analysed in combination.
The findings represent an important step in the search for the chink in the armour in human cancer ? the elusive gene that cancer cells simply cannot live without.