Exploiting cancer cells' weaknesses

Monday, March 7, 2011 - 05:30 in Health & Medicine

When designing new cancer drugs, biologists often target specific gene mutations found only in cancer cells, or in a subset of cancer cells. A team of MIT biologists is now taking a slightly different approach, targeting a trait shared by nearly all cancer cells — they have too many chromosomes.MIT biology professor Angelika Amon has been studying this peculiarity, known as aneuploidy, for several years. In developing fetuses, aneuploidy causes death or birth defects. However, in cancer cells, aneuploidy appears to confer a survival advantage.“We’re interested in this because the vast majority of human cancers are aneuploid,” says Amon, a member of the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. “The question arises, can we exploit the fact that all tumor cells are aneuploid for treatment? Compounds that selectively kill aneuploid cells would be effective against a broad spectrum of human tumors.”In a study published Feb. 18 in the...

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