Researchers have made a startling discovery that hundreds of thousands of Brazilians have a genetic mutation which undermines their ability to resist cancer.
This finding is helping labs worldwide in their search for new treatments for the disease.
Mutation in a gene called p53 undermines the body’s ability to resist cancer.
P53 has turned out to be the most important single gene in cancer and has been one of the most popular areas of study in the history of molecular biology.
P53 was discovered by David Lane in 1979, while he was working at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London. Simultaneously three other groups were working independently in the United States and France, led by Arnold Levine, Lloyd Old and Pierre May.
P53 is a tumor suppressor and tasked with protecting the bod from cancer by making sure that when cells divide as part of routine growth and maintenance, they do so without making dangerous mistakes. If the DNA is damaged or not copied faithfully as it divides to produce new “daughter” cells, P53 stops the cell in its tracks and sends in the repair team before allowing the dividing cell to proceed. If the damage to the DNA is irreparable, P53 puts the cell into a state where it can no longer divide, or else it instructs the cell to commit suicide to ensure it does not run wild.
The line of research into the metabolic abnormalities of cancer offers some exciting prospects for patients. Researchers believe that drugs that already exist for metabolic diseases can be repurposed as new treatments for cancer.
Many labs around the world are exploring with metformin, the most widely prescribed drug for diabetes, which targets faulty glucose metabolism. Generally people with diabetes are at a higher risk of cancer, however doctors have noticed that the cancer risk in long-term users of metformin actually seemed to be lower than that of the non-diabetic population. Additionally experiments have found that it is toxic to cancer cells.
Researchers are hopeful that metformin will work at least for a lot of Brazilians.