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Cancer Research Update: Scientists Find Success In Reducing The Spread Of Cancer By Targeting Genes

Update Date: Jan 12, 2017 10:42 AM EST

According to statistical data, 90 percent of cancer patients die due to metastasis or the spread of cancerous tumors in the body. However, much is still unknown in the process of metastasis. Luckily, in the latest cancer research update, scientists were able to find success in reducing the spread of cancer in the body by targeting genes.

The research conducted by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, published in the journal Nature, looked into the role of genes in the spread of cancers. By using genetically modified mice, the scientists were able to discover twenty-three new genes that are involved in the spread of cancerous tumors in the body.

These genes have the ability to alter the immune system thus weakening its ability to fight infection. By targeting these genes, the study was able to determine their role in increasing or decreasing the metastatic process.

The result of the study shows that by removing a gene, Spns2, the spread of cancer is reduced in the body. The effects of the removal of the Spns2 gene on the spread of other types of cancer, like from the lungs, breast, and colon, all showed a reduction of the metastasis of the cancers. This is the largest change ever observed by the scientists.

Previously, the gene Spns2 was only believed to alter the immune system and its role in the metastatic process were later identified. By removing the Spn2 gene, the scientists discovered that the spread of cancer was reduced by approximately three-quarters.

The role of the Spns2 gene is to code for a protein that transports a signaling lipid, S1P, which alters the immune system. By targeting the S1P, the Spns2 gene is prevented from altering and modifying the immune system thus halting the metastasis of cancer.

"This work supports the emerging area of immunotherapy, where the bodies' own immune system is harnessed to fight cancer", adds Dr. Anneliese Speak. Future studies will explore the different pathways of the Spns2 gene and develop potential drugs and treatments to target these areas in order to regulate and eventually stop the spread of cancer in the body.

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