Gene-controlling mechanisms play key role in cancer progression

Thursday, July 23, 2020 - 10:20 in Biology & Nature

As cancer cells evolve, many of their genes become overactive while others are turned down. These genetic changes can help tumors grow out of control and become more aggressive, adapt to changing conditions, and eventually lead the tumor to metastasize and spread elsewhere in the body. MIT and Harvard University researchers have now mapped out an additional layer of control that guides this evolution — an array of structural changes to “chromatin,” the mix of proteins, DNA, and RNA that makes up cells’ chromosomes. In a study of mouse lung tumors, the researchers identified 11 chromatin states, also called epigenomic states, that cancer cells can pass through as they become more aggressive. “This work provides one of the first examples of using single-cell epigenomic data to comprehensively characterize genes that regulate tumor evolution in cancer,” says Lindsay LaFave, an MIT postdoc and the lead author of the study. In addition, the researchers showed...

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