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Science / Medicine : Anti-Cancer Mechanism Detected

Compiled from Times staff and wire reports

An anti-cancer gene that helps guard against lung and breast cancer may perform its lifesaving function by shutting down a gene that helps stimulate cell growth, researchers said last week.

Researchers have suspected that an anti-cancer gene, called the retinoblastoma gene, might act by shutting off one or more cell-growth genes. But they didn’t know which ones.

Failure of the retinoblastoma gene is one of several steps that can allow the growth of not only lung and breast cancer but also a rare eye cancer called retinoblastoma, in which the gene was first identified.

In a study appearing in Nature, a British scientific journal, Paul Robbins and his colleagues at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Mass., say they have identified a growth gene controlled by the retinoblastoma gene.

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It is called the fos gene. When the retinoblastoma gene is defective and cannot do its job, the fos gene can help trigger the chaotic, unregulated cell growth characteristic of cancer tumors.


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