Researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Andersen Cancer Center say they have discovered a single gene--BRT1--that may play a role as a tumor suppressor. BRT1 is under expressed in ovarian, breast and prostate cancer cell lines, say the researchers, whose work is published in Cancer Cell. Defects in the gene inhibit DNA damage response and create genomic instability that fosters the spread of cancer. The researchers conducted lab experiments that showed BRT1 plays a role in DNA repair and preventing the division of a damaged cell to prevent replication. Using small interfering RNA to silence the genes in human mammary epithelial cells caused chromosomal aberrations in 21.2 percent to 25.6 percent of cells.
The researchers conclude: "BRIT1 defection seems to be a key pathological alteration in cancer initiation and progression, and as such, further understanding of its function may well contribute to novel, effective therapeutic approaches for cancer."