Researchers Discover New Gene Involved in Colon Cancer

Agroup of researchers led by Michael Liskay, professor of molecular and medical genetics at Oregon Health Sciences University, has discovered a second gene involved in a common form of familial colon cancer called Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colon Cancer, or HNPCC. HNPCC accounts for as many as 1 in 10 cases of colon and rectal cancer.
This study was an international collaboration among the Liskay laboratory, including Eric Bronner and Sean Baker, and four other laboratories--Richard Kolodner and Paul Morrison, at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; David Ward, at Yale University; Richard Fishel, at the University of Vermont; and, Magnus Nordenskjold at the Karolinska Hospital, in Stockholm, Sweden.
"The work not only has far-reaching implications for cancer diagnosis and research, but again strongly underscores the value of basic scientific research," says Dr. Liskay. "Research with yeast and bacteria, conducted partly in our own laboratories, provided clues that were crucial for the identification of this HNPCC gene lying on human chromosome number 3."
This HNPCC gene is involved in the correction, or repair, of faulty DNA: "Many scientists suspect that other cancers, in addition to HNPCC, might also exhibit defects in DNA mismatch repair," says Liskay.
"Most importantly, the discovery and isolation of this second HNPCC gene should allow at the very least the development of new strategies for disease prevention through early detection of these cancers. Additionally, further basic research should enable us and others to discover still other genes involved in building the mismatch repair machine. In turn, these genes would represent new candidates for human diseases such as cancer."
This discovery of a second HNPCC gene can lead to a more comprehensive genetic diagnostic test, in which individuals at risk for familial colon cancer may be screened for the presence of one of the HNPCC genes. First, individuals carrying one of the mutant genes can be identified, and then physicians can take early and aggressive preventive measures, thus allowing more effective intervention in the growth of cancer before it becomes fatal.