A new guardian of DNA discovered, useful against tumors

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A new guardian of DNA discovered, useful against tumors
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The protein that under normal conditions helps to repair damage suffered by DNA becomes a new target for future therapies against tumors. The protein is called Cdk9 and its role was discovered by research conducted between the United States and Italy, coordinated by Antonio Giordano, of the Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia, and conducted in collaboration with Luigi Alfano's group , of the National Cancer Institute of Naples Pascale Foundation and first signatory of the article. The study is published in the journal Oncogene.

“It's a new guardian of the genome,” Giordano said, referring to the role of the Cyclin Dependent Kinase 9 protein in regulating DNA repair. In particular, the study demonstrated how the absence of this protein deprives diseased cells of an important tool for repairing damage to their DNA and, in this way, makes them more vulnerable to chemotherapy treatments.

In Italy, Alfano's group demonstrated how the lack of the Cdk9 protein negatively impacts the mechanism of homologous recombination, the most important repair process to avoid the formation of mutations within the DNA sequence. In practice, explains Alfano, the Cdk9 protein monitors the cell's genome to avoid the appearance of errors in the gene sequence. Consequently, its alteration within tumors may be important for increasing the mutational load that underlies tumor transformation and progression.

For Giordano “this discovery allows us to add an important new piece to the understanding of how cells choose repair mechanisms, favoring the conservation of genetic information and reducing the onset of mutations predisposing to cancer”. This is “an excellent result – he added – because the description of the role of Cdk9, discovered by us in 1994, paves the way for the generation of new pharmacological inhibitors which can be used both in monotherapy and in combination with other drugs, already currently in use, to enhance its anti-tumor effect”. The discovery, he concluded, “opens the way to further studies for the evaluation of Cdk9 as a possible new predictive factor of the response to pharmacological treatments that act on DNA repair”.

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