Gene in the colon appears to spur cancer cell death

Colorectal cancer has a genetic enemy, French researchers have found. Known as the DCC gene, its presence appears to kill the deadly cells.

At least that is the case in mice. If future research proves the same in people, the scientific team believes that the knowledge could lead to targeted treatments that reactivate the body's ability to cause the death of cancer cells. The Dec. 11 edition of the journal Nature highlights the details.

Scientists led by Patrick Mehlen of the Lyon Cancer Research Center zeroed in on the DCC (deleted colorectal cancer) gene. Scientists, they assert, have debated for years about what role the gene plays in suppressing tumors. They now believe that it causes cells that turned cancerous to die, preventing the onset of the disease. That's because in mice, they mutated the DCC, and the action had stunning results. With the gene mutated, cells that became cancerous didn't die, and the mice "spontaneously" developed colon cancer.

"The organism is naturally protected from the development of cancers thanks to the presence of this tumor-suppressing gene," Mehlen said in a statement. And now he and his team understand that some cancer cells escape this when the gene's "dependence receptor" is blocked.

The scientists believe that they can begin human trials in three years of a number of drug candidates that would reintroduce the cancer cell death that the DCC receptor induced in mice.

- here's the release
- check out the Nature abstract