05 May How Telomere Science can be Used to Defeat Cancerous Cells
A study by the Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston University has delved into what causes cancer cells´ ability to activate alternative ways to increase telomere expansion, thereby increasing the cancerous cells´ lifespan. Using this information they have identified a potential treatment for cancers that use this route.
Cancer cells use two methods to avoid the loss of telomere length in replication: 1) the activation of the protein telomerase which is responsible for maintaining the length of telomeres during replication or 2) the activation of other alternative ways to mix and match DNA from other chromosomes.
During replication, the DNA binding protein called “RPA” is attached to the telomeres with the help of an RNA that contains the same telomeric pattern. Another important protein in the replication process is the protein “ATRX” which responsible for remodeling the chromosome. If a cell loses or finds a way to inhibit the restructuring job of the ARTX, then the protein RPA would become permanently bonded to telomeres. Cancer cells exploit this strategy to keep telomeres intact, thereby increasing their ability to continue to replicate. In other words, cancer cells have found a way to cheat the system so that they can live longer.
Scientists have discovered that by inhibiting the ATR protein, which helps regulate the RPA, they have been able to break apart the chromosomes and eventually kill the cancerous cells. This is a possible development in the treatment for cancers.
“This study suggests that the inhibition of ATR in replication could be an important new strategy in the treatment of cancers that depend on the alternative route to telomere extension”, indicates Rachel Flynn, primary author of the work.