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Natural Compound Restores Normal Function to Mutant Gene, Fights Cancer

Monday, April 27, 2009 by: Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
Tags: p53, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) A gene called p53 that is known to be important in controlling cell growth and death has the ability to suppress tumors. It works as a kind of checkpoint to keep abnormal cells from growing and dividing unheeded and causing malignancies. But something --an environmental toxin, chemicals, radiation, no one knows for sure -- can mutate the gene. The result? It no longer protects the body against pre-cancerous cells, allowing them to progress into cancer. In fact, researchers have learned mutations in the p53 tumor suppressor gene play a role in about half of all human tumors.

The p53 mutation was just in the news when researchers from the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) presented results of what is believed to be the largest p53 and breast cancer study in the US. At the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Denver, Colorado, the scientists said they've found that almost 26 percent of women studied who have breast cancer were found to have mutations in this gene. What's more, the women with the gene mutation had poorer outcomes and significantly higher risk of dying from their cancer.

"The p53 gene is the guardian of the genome because it signals the cell to repair DNA damage when that occurs. If we can find genetic or environmental risk factors that lead to damage of p53 or stress on the gene, we may be able to help prevent development of breast cancer as well as other cancers," the study's lead investigator, Catalin Marian, MD, PhD, a research instructor of cancer genetics and epidemiology at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at GUMC, said in a media statement.

Meanwhile, another research team at Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at GUMC presented a remarkable discovery about how a mutant p53 gene might be "fixed". They've observed that a natural substance can restore the cancer-stopping function to p53 in a variety of human tumor cells.

Specifically, the scientists have demonstrated that phenethyl isothiocyante (PEITC), a natural compound found in cruciferous vegetables such as watercress, broccoli and cabbage, can selectively deplete mutant p53. And when this happens in human cancer cells, the researchers said there's a restoration of what they call the "wild type", i.e. normal, function of p53.

This research strongly suggests that PEITC restores the normal p53 checkpoint control pathways in mutant p53-expressing tumor cells. Bottom line: this novel finding could well mean PEITC and other natural compounds in the isothiocyante family could play important roles in both cancer prevention and the treatment of human cancers linked to mutant p53 genes.

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About the author

Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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