Scientists have shed light on an "on-off switch" mechanism that can help stop cancer in its tracks.
Experts at Yale School of Medicine and Sichuan University, China, experimented on mice and found that an RNA molecule from an area of the genome, which does not produce proteins, prevents a type of tumour-suppressor protein (TSP) from inactivating incipient cancer genes.
Alan Garen, of the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale, and his colleague Xu Song have revealed that the TSP protein they studied, called PSF, is virtually identical in mice and humans.
The researchers succeeded in preventing the formation of tumours in mice by either increasing the amount of PSF or decreasing the amount of the non-coding RNA in a cell.
"The tumour cell stops proliferating and the tumour regresses in a mouse model of cancer, suggesting that both procedures could be the basis of a clinical protocol," said Garen.
He and his colleagues plan to continue their studies on the mechanism that regulates the amount of PSF-binding RNA in a cell, which they believe is central to the origins of cancer.