Frogs give clue to cancer

Sunday, 04 March, 2001

Frogs' eggs have given scientists a vital clue of what happens when cells turn cancerous. Researchers at the University of Dundee, Scotland, used the giant eggs of the African pipid frog in experiments to study genetic cancer triggers.

The eggs helped them discover a mechanism that may normally prevent cancer from developing and could lead to new kinds of treatment in the future.

Dr Julian Blow, one of the research team, said: "Cancer happens when cells divide out of control. Thanks to our remarkable eggs we have now found a vital switch that normally stops this from happening but which may go wrong when cancer develops. We are really excited by the discovery because if we could prove that the switch goes wrong in cancer, and find out how this happens, it might lead to new drugs to protect our cells from the disease".

The researchers think the switch controls the crucial process of copying genes that has to happen when a cell divides in two. Gene copying is turned on and off by a molecule called geminin. When geminin is present inside cells, the process is switched off. Removing it switches on gene copying and gives cells the signal to divide.

Losing geminin altogether could be a crucial stage in the development of cancer, the scientists believe. A drug that mimics geminin might be able to prevent or limit cell division.

For further information please contact Dr Julian Blow, University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland on phone +44 1382 345108 or fax +44 1382 345515.

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