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Watson on Cancer


DNA pioneer James Watson tells the Financial Times' Clive Cookson that "the back of most incurable human cancers may be broken over the next five to 10 years." In an editorial recently published in Cancer Discovery, Watson says recent work in RNA interference will lead to researchers having the ability to selectively turn off the genes that allow tumors to divide and spread. Recent work on acute myelocytic leukemia at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where Watson serves as chancellor emeritus, found that a gene-activating protein called bromodomain-4 is needed for AML cell division, Cookson says. A drug called JQ1, discovered by researchers at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, blocked the protein and stopped the dividing process, he adds, and caused the cells to revert to normal white blood cells. "Studies show bromodomain-4 makes cancers 'incurable' by expanding the amounts of a key transcription factor called Myc, which in turn activates a large number of biological molecules required for cell division," Cookson says. "In fact Myc may be the key to cell proliferation in many other cancers besides AML, and JQ1 may turn out to be a multipurpose cancer cure." Watson says that we won't know how effective JQ1 will be until it enters clinical trials, but adds that even if JQ1 falls short, other similar compounds might do the trick.

The Scan

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Researchers examine the interplay of trauma, genetics, and major depressive disorder in JAMA Psychiatry.

UCLA Team Reports Cost-Effective Liquid Biopsy Approach for Cancer Detection

The researchers report in Nature Communications that their liquid biopsy approach has high specificity in detecting all- and early-stage cancers.