Contact: Susan Preston
Researchers Identify Gene Variation That May Increase
The Development of Cancers at an Earlier Age
Study Published in November 24, 2004 Issue of Cell
A tiny variation in a gene involved in regulating tumor suppression could increase the susceptibility of some individuals to developing cancer than others, according to researchers at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey.
The study, conducted by Arnold Levine, Ph.D. and colleagues, appears in the November 24, 2004 issue of the journal Cell.
“The tumor suppressor p53 gene is mutated in minimally half of all cancers and variations in the p53 gene may affect an individual’s development of cancer at an earlier age,” said Dr. Levine, a resident member of The Cancer Institute of New Jersey and professor of pediatrics and biochemistry at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Professor in the School of Natural Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ. “The ability to predict the development of early onset cancers could mean the identification of a group that should be screened at an earlier age for cancers.”
This slight variation, which involves only one “letter” within the gene, is called a single nucleotide polymorphism, or SNP. If certain SNPs correspond to the likelihood of having a specific disease, the single-letter variations may play an instrumental role in the future of genomic medicine.
While looking for SNPs in genes that work with the p53 tumor suppressor, Dr. Levine and his colleagues discovered a relevant SNP in MDM2. MDM2 encodes a p53 regulator that keeps the tumor suppressor from doing its job.
Based on this finding, the researchers concluded that in individuals with the MDM2 SNP variation, tumor formation is accelerated and that tumors may occur even earlier in life in some hereditary types of cancer.
A copy of the article, entitled “A Single Nucleotide Polymorphism in the MDM2 Promoter Attenuates the p53 Tumor Suppressor Pathway and Accelerates Tumor Formation in Humans” is available upon request.