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Published on 4 April 2008

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‘Safe’ molecule can trigger cancer

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A common molecule previously known to play a fundamental role in building protein can also trigger cancer, new research claims.

Previous studies found levels of a molecule called tRNA, which helps kickstart protein production, are unusually high in some cases of ovarian and cervical cancer.

The recent findings, published in Cell, found ovarian cells boosted with extra tRNA turned cancerous. Three different types of fibroblast cells also responded in a similar way, leading the team to believe their research may be applicable to many different forms of the disease.

Lead researcher, Professor Robert White, from the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research, said: “For the first time our study shows that tRNA, a molecule which has always been regarded by scientists to play a safe and rather boring ‘housekeeping’ role, can have a darker side.

“This finding will open up new and potentially important avenues for drug development.”

Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer information, said: “This startling discovery raises serious questions about how important the tRNA will turn out to be in the complex chain of biological changes that cause cancer to develop. We now need to find out if the tRNA can be manipulated for the benefit of cancer patients.”

Copyright © PA Business 2008

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