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article imageUsing DNA to cure brain cancer

By Tim Sandle     Jan 9, 2016 in Science
UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center scientists have examined the way an enzyme fixes DNA as the basis for developing a technique for fighting brain cancer.
Cells, when dividing, utilize and enzyme called Dicer (or 'endoribonuclease Dicer'.) This helps cells repair any DNA damage that occurs when errors are made as cells copy genetic material again and again (as is required in the production of new cells.) Scientists have used their knowledge of Dicer’s role in repairing DNA damage as a new technique to kill rapidly dividing, cancerous cells in the brain.
Through studies, then research group found when they extract Dicer from pre-clinical models of medulloblastoma (which is a common type of brain cancer in children), they noted high levels of DNA damage in the cancer cells. The damage led to the death of the cancer cells. Subsequently tumors became smaller, and the remaining cancerous cells appeared more sensitive to chemotherapy.
In a research note, Professor Mohanish Deshmukh, who led the study, noted: "This is the first time that the specific function of Dicer for DNA damage has been looked at in the context of the developing brain or even in brain tumors, despite that the fact that the protein has been extensively studied."
It is hoped the research will prevent cancer development or make a brain tumor more sensitive to chemotherapy. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments are designed to weaken cancer cell DNA; thus, anything like the Dicer enzyme that contributes to cancer cell DNA weakening, will make other treatments more effective.
The research is published in the journal Cell Reports. The associated paper is titled "Essential Function of Dicer in Resolving DNA Damage in the Rapidly Dividing Cells of the Developing and Malignant Cerebellum."
More about Brain cancer, Cancer, Dna
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