Scientists find new cause of cancer coming from inside body

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A groundbreaking study led by Flinders University in Australia suggests that circular RNAs, a recently discovered family of genetic fragments, can influence a person’s risk of developing cancer.

These particular circular RNAs can bind to our cells’ DNA, potentially triggering DNA mutations that result in cancer.

This finding, termed as ‘ER3D’ (endogenous RNA directed DNA damage), heralds a new era in the medical and molecular biology field.

The Discovery

Flinders University’s Professor Simon Conn, who heads the Circular RNAs in Cancer Laboratory, has stated that this is the first instance of a genetic molecule found in many individuals having the capacity to mutate our own DNA, initiating cancer from within.

This breakthrough paves the way for utilizing these molecules as new therapeutic targets and early disease markers, thereby increasing the chances of curing cancers.

The Evidence

The research involved a comparison of neonatal blood tests, or Guthrie cards, of babies who developed acute leukemia later in life, with those of children free from any blood disorders.

This comparison revealed a significantly higher presence of a specific circular RNA in babies who eventually developed leukemia.

The results suggest that the abundance of circular RNA molecules in an individual’s cells could influence the development of specific cancer-causing genes or oncogenes.

The Mechanism

According to Professor Conn, circular RNAs can bind to DNA at various locations across a range of cells. This binding leads to a chain of changes, ultimately resulting in DNA breakage, which the cell must repair to survive.

However, this repair is often imperfect, leading to minor mutations or, in worst-case scenarios, large and devastating mutations.

As circular RNAs can also modify the physical location of the broken DNA within the cell nucleus, two distinct DNA regions can be fused during the repair process.

The Consequences

The lead author of the study, Dr. Vanessa Conn, noted that multiple circular RNAs can act in unison, causing breaks at several DNA sites.

This process, known as chromosomal translocation, can be catastrophic, as it can result in gene fusions, which can transform a normal cell into a cancerous one.

This mechanism was shown to drive the rapid onset of aggressive leukemia.

The Implications

The gene fusions arising from the action of circular RNAs are at well-known “hotspots” of mutation in leukemia, a significant concern in Australia, the country with the world’s highest incidence of leukemia.

Furthermore, while these gene fusions have long been used to guide treatment options due to their correlation with poorer patient prognosis, it remained unclear how these mutations arose until this study.

Looking Ahead

The researchers indicate that ER3D isn’t restricted only to leukemia but extends to other cancers and human diseases.

The Flinders University research team is persisting with their study, investigating circular RNAs’ role in cancer and other diseases, which holds potential for groundbreaking advancements in the field of cancer treatment and disease detection.

If you care about cancer, please read studies that artificial sweeteners are linked to higher cancer risk, and how drinking milk affects risks of heart disease and cancer.

For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies about the best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease, and results showing vitamin D supplements strongly reduces cancer death.

The study was published in Cancer Cell.

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