Fighting Cancer One Gene at a Time
How does a tumour suppressor gene, known as p53, repair damaged cells and kill abnormal cells that could lead to cancer? Canada Research Chair Samuel Benchimol believes that the answer to this question will clarify an important aspect of cancer development.
Benchimol studies the role of p53 in regulating cell growth. In healthy people, p53 is inactive. It becomes activated only in response to certain types of stress - DNA damage, for example, or inappropriate growth signals. And then it regulates the work of a large number of other genes, resulting in the prevention of cell proliferation that could lead to cancer. Unfortunately, sometimes p53 never gets activated, tumours develop, and the person gets cancer.
Similarly, Benchimol is studying p53's role in bringing about the natural biological process of cells dying off. When p53 fails to get activated, cell death doesn't occur as it should and cancer can result.
Benchimol's research into how p53 works - and doesn't work - will help us not only to understand more about how cancer develops, but also lead to better treatment strategies for those who suffer from this deadly disease.