Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Gene

CHK1 tumor suppressor also promotes tumor growth

(RxWiki News) Cancer research in genetics can get quite complicated. The presence of a gene commonly involved in the cancer process does not mean that it is active in that person, or at that time.

Similarly, genes that are protective against cancer and helpful for normal cells can also help cancer cells grow.

The CHK1 gene, which is known to protect against cancer, has also been found to enhance the rapid growth of tumor cells in a recent animal study.

"Ask your oncologist about their use of genetic profiling."

A team from Spain's National Cancer Research Center (Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncologicas / CNIO) engineered a mouse thought to be further protected against developing cancer by having a protective extra copy of the CHK1 gene.

The scientists were surprised when the protected mouse developed even higher levels of cancer than normal.

This research shows some grey area in current literature about CHK1, according to investigator Fernández-Capetillo. CHK1 was thought to be "a genome guardian, a gene that keeps our genome free of mutations and, therefore, protects against the development of tumours," he said.

Lead researcher Oscar Fernandez Capetillo elaborated, stating that this gene "can be both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in that it can either protect us against the appearance of tumors or promote tumor growth."

Conclusions from similar studies in past years have pushed for cancer researchers to keep an open mind while treating cancers, as genetic analysis is helpful but should not serve as the final word in choice of therapy.

Cancer can arise from any number of genetic abnormalities, and since this balance in genetics is important, additional copies of genes may push a cell away from equilibrium.

CHK1 is one of many enzymes that controls the cell growth cycle, normally serving as a checkpoint to stop or allow cells to duplicate.

The study was published February 27th in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Disclosure of funding and financial relationships was not made publicly available.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 28, 2012