Extra chromosome protects against cancer
An extra copy of chromosome 21 may boost protection against cancer, research on mice suggests. A study of mice with extra copies of chromosome 21 showed rates of tumour formation significantly lower than in control mice with the normal two copies. The extra chromosome included four genes involved in stopping angiogenesis – the formation of new blood vessels.
The four genes were able to do this by blocking the growth factor VEGF, so the formation of blood vessels supplying tumours is not triggered. As consequence cancer cells are starved of nutrients and eventually die. An extra copy of chromosome 21 causes Down Syndrome.
The team hope the mice will reveal more about boosting protection against tumour growth and provide alternative targets for treatment. Finding the additional genes which lower the risk of developing cancer may lead to gene therapy.