New Study Analyses Shared Network Of Cancer Genes

A new report published by researchers at the Wilmot Cancer Institute gives an in-depth look into the complex gene interactions, which turns a cell into a malignant one. The researchers made use of network modelling to study interactions, which lead to malignancy. The study results are expected to pave the way for wider cancer therapies.

According to the research, genetic mutations, which are generally impacted by drugs have only been recognized for certain type of cancers. These mutations depend on a downstream network of non-mutated genes to turn cells cancerous. These downstream genes and their complex interactions are found to be common across different types of cancers and may be a big step forward in cancer research and treatment.

Commenting on the research, one of the lead authors, Hartmut Land, said, "Targeting non-mutated proteins that are essential to making cells cancerous is a broader approach that could be used in multiple cancers but it's hard to find these non-mutated, essential genes."

As part of the research, scientists developed a new network modeling method known as TopNet, that the group paired with genetic experiments in cells and mice to pinpoint important gene networks.

Land's group of researchers had earlier categorized a very diverse set of non-mutated genes, which are crucial to cancer. In this study, the group wanted to see how those genes interact beginning with a subset of 20 genes. The researchers found that increasing or decreasing expression of one gene in the cultured cells would have tremendous effect on the expression levels of the other genes in the set.

For example, the number of possible gene network models considered by TopNet was many more times greater than the estimated number of atoms in the universe. After removing models, which didn't closely fit the observed data and further focusing in on gene interactions, which appeared in at least 80 percent of the models, the team was left with a manageable set of 24 high-confidence gene interactions. Follow-up experimentation showed that these interactions most often had an important role in the tumor turning malignant.

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