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Ovarian Cancer's Achilles Heel

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Researchers from the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT have teamed up with their colleagues from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in order to find cancer's weak spots, according to a Broad press release. In a collaboration termed Project Achilles — named after the Greek warrior who had only one vulnerability — the researchers examined cells from more than 100 tumors, including 25 ovarian cancer tumors, to find the genes that cancer really needs in order to survive and spread. In a new study published in PNAS, the team shows that one of these genes, PAX8, is altered in a significant portion of ovarian cancer tumors and, when silenced, can lead to cell death, the press release says. The team used a pool of more than 54,000 shRNAs to silence or suppress thousands of genes. The researchers have also found that the organ where cancer cells originate makes a difference in how they develop. "Many of us in the genomics field — including myself — were thinking that maybe someday, we won't care about the organs that cancers come from, that we will only care about the genetic mutations that drive them," says Broad researcher William Hahn. "What's emerging from The Cancer Genome Atlas and our Project Achilles work is that lineage will continue to be important." This may be because of the different ways the organ systems develop, the press release adds. The team plans to pursue PAX8 as a possible target for treating ovarian cancer, and will team up with the Broad's Chemical Biology Platform to analyze the effect of hundreds of thousands of compounds on the gene, the Broad says.

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