Nobel-Winning Work Has Cancer Implications
Article date: October 5, 2009
By: Rebecca Viksnins Snowden
The work done by scientists who received this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine may have implications for cancer research.
Elizabeth H. Blackburn, PhD, of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Jack W. Szostak, PhD, of the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, along with Carol W. Greider of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, were awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work in better understanding how cells protect DNA during cell division.
Blackburn, Szostak, and Greider found that during cell division, chromosomes, which are long strands of DNA, are protected by structures called telomeres and the action of the enzyme telomerase. Telomeres are found on the ends of chromosomes and keep them from degrading during cell division. The enzyme telomerase ensures that the telomere DNA is copied. Together, they make cell division and growth possible. If telomeres are shortened, cells age; if telomerase activity is high, cells are able to multiply many times without losing much telomere DNA.
Cancer cells often have high telomerase levels. Researchers hope that by manipulating this action in cancer cells, they can keep them from proliferating. Several studies are underway in this area. Researchers also hope to use the data to better understand the aging process and other diseases.
"The discoveries by Blackburn, Greider and Szostak have added a new dimension to our understanding of the cell, shed light on disease mechanisms, and stimulated the development of potential new therapies," according to the press release from the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet.
In 2000, Blackburn received the American Cancer Society Medal of Honor, awarded to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the fight against cancer. The Society also supported Szostak between 1981 and 1983 while he was at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. And all three laureates have served as mentors to other ACS research grant recipients.
Reviewed by: Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff
ACS News Center stories are provided as a source of cancer-related news and are not intended to be used as press releases.
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