Monday, April 28, 2008

Gene discovery opens door to tackling disease

A group of “Western Australian researchers [led by Professor Peter Leedman] have discovered a new gene that could lead to breakthroughs in breast and prostate cancer, as well as diabetes.” The gene they discoverd was called SLIRP and Professor Leedman states that it “…has the potential to shut down oestrogen in breast cancer cells and testosterone in prostate cancer cells. Most of those cancers depend on the hormones to stay alive, so if we can use SLIRP to block the hormones we may be able to help stop those diseases in their tracks."

An outcome of this discovery may be the development of new cancer treatments. If researchers can discover how this SLIRP gene functions, they may be able to develop ‘smart’ drugs with less side-effects, which will effectively target only cancer cells. It may also mean that a simple blood test can diagnose a breast cancer and this type of detection can happen early on in the cancers development, giving rise to an improved survival rate.

The discovery of this gene was a surprise as in the past this gene was not “characterised during the mapping of the human genome.” This gene discovery may also help treat diabetes and weight problems as the hormone SLIRP has the “…ability to turn off one of the key regulators of energy metabolism…”

This gene discovery could help countless people battling cancer or diabetes. Each year around 2500 men and women die from prostate and breast cancer, and breast cancer is the most common of all cancers in Australian women.

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