Increased Understanding of DNA Code Could Improve Cancer Treatment

In-depth examination of the mechanisms of a tumor protein could lead to new treatments.

A recent study showed the tumor protein TP53 travels where it needs to go in order to bind to DNA for the prevention of cancer, and can initiate cell repair.

Prior to this new study, published in Genome Research, it was assumed that TP53 would not be able to locate its place in the DNA sequence without the help of other proteins.

"We used next-generation sequencing to test the capacity of DNA sequences to act as switches for more than 1500 DNA sequences at the same time," said researcher Stein Aerts, PhD. "We then used supercomputers and advanced computer models to examine the differences between effective and non-effective switches. That's how we discovered that TP53 is able to locate the exact DNA sequence to which it needs to bind -- all by itself."

The researchers believe their findings are important to better understand regulatory DNA code. The techniques in this study could be used to understand more elaborate codes, and understand DNA switches further in order to create new cancer treatments.

"The protein TP53 plays a crucial role in the prevention of cancer. When a cell is damaged -- because of UV or radioactivity, for instance -- TP53 switches on the right genes to repair the cell,” the researchers concluded. “A cell sometimes loses TP53, so that cancer can start developing there. In about 50% of all cancers, there's a problem with the protein TP53. That's why it's so important to unravel its underlying mechanisms."