ROCHESTER, Minn. — Mayo Clinic researchers have proven the longstanding theory that changes in the number of whole chromosomes — called aneuploidy — can cause cancer by eliminating tumor suppressor genes. Their findings, which appear in the current issue of the journal Cancer Cell along with an independent commentary on the discovery, end a major controversy in the field of cancer research as to whether aneuploidy is a cause or a consequence of cancer.
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Virtually all human cancers have an abnormal number of chromosomes. Therefore, it has been long suspected that gene mutations which promote erroneous chromosome separation during cell division are to blame for tumor development. However, because of experimental limitations this was difficult to prove.
“By using a combination of new and established mouse models for human cancer, we were able to prove that aneuploidy causes cancer and elucidate the mechanism by which it does so,” explains Jan van Deursen, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic cancer biologist and senior author.
Significance of the Research
These findings explain how chromosomal errors can cause cancer. They prove the role of aneuploidy in the elimination of genes that suppress tumor formation.
“Now that we understand the mechanism by which aneuploidy causes cancer, it will be easier for other researchers to build on this knowledge — and target new drugs accordingly,” says Dr. van Deursen.
Researchers included Darren Baker; Fang Jin, M.D.; and Karthik Jeganathan, all of Mayo Clinic. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.
About Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is the first and largest integrated, not-for-profit group practice in the world. Doctors from every medical specialty work together to care for patients, joined by common systems and a philosophy of “the needs of the patient come first.” More than 3,700 physicians, scientists and researchers, and 50,100 allied health staff work at Mayo Clinic, which has campuses in Rochester, Minn; Jacksonville, Fla; and Scottsdale/Phoenix, Ariz.; and community-based providers in more than 70 locations in southern Minnesota., western Wisconsin and northeast Iowa. These locations treat more than half a million people each year. To obtain the latest news releases from Mayo Clinic, go to www.mayoclinic.org/news. For information about research and education, visit www.mayo.edu. MayoClinic.com (www.mayoclinic.com) is available as a resource for your health stories.