Gene found to play major role in suppressing cancer

Nov. 22, 2013

Australian researchers have found that a specific gene plays an important role in suppressing lymphoma, a type of blood cell cancer. The caspase-2 gene is related to a family of proteins that are essential for the self-destruction of cells in the body, a process known as apoptosis.

Caspase-2 was first discovered almost 20 years ago by Sharad Kumar, PhD, of the University of Adelaide's Schools of Medicine and Molecular and Biomedical Science. For the past two decades, Kumar's laboratory has been investigating the processes by which cells commit suicide and the molecular machinery that determine whether a cell lives or dies. Cell death is essential to maintain the correct number of cells in the body and to delete cells that have been damaged and become potentially harmful. In new findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Professor Kumar and his research team have found in laboratory studies that caspase-2 could prevent tumor formation.

“It does this by ensuring that cells predisposed to cancer maintain a healthy number of chromosomes,” Kumar says. “By some unknown mechanism, caspase-2 appears to prevent cells from losing and gaining copies of the chromosomes, which is a trait frequently observed in tumor cells. This research,” he continues, “not only provides new information on the development of cancer; it also defines how caspase-2 can potentially work as a tumor suppressor gene. This is an exciting finding and one that we're already investigating further.” Read the study abstract.