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Faulty gene offers insight into kidney cancer

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A discovery about how a faulty gene predisposes a cell to cancerouschanges could pave the way for new treatments to block kidneycancer growth, suggests a study by researchers from the UnitedKingdom.

A discovery about how a faulty gene predisposes a cell to cancerous changes could pave the way for new treatments to block kidney cancer growth, suggests a study by researchers from the United Kingdom.

The group, funded by Cancer Research UK, looked at samples of kidney cells from patients with von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) syndrome, and found that cells with faulty VHL were lacking a normal protein molecule called e-cadherin, which contributes to normal cell behavior (Cancer Research 2006; 66:3567-75).

The team discovered that the cells behaved as if they were receiving much less oxygen than they really were, and to combat this perceived lack of oxygen, the cells raised a chemical signal called hypoxia-inducible factor, which causes the kidney cells to switch off e-cadherin.

“Investigating cells before they develop into tumors could help us to find a way to detect and treat kidney cancer,” said Partick Maxwell, PhD, of Imperial College London. “However, we don’t think e-cadherin is the only thing responsible for the development of kidney cancer. In fact, there are probably many more factors involved, and our next task is to find out what these are and work out the best way to prevent the disease from forming in the first place.”

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