Collaborative research team solves cancer cell mutation mystery

Susan McKenna, Alex Kreig, and Siv Schwink
5/31/2015

Research breakthrough has implications for better targeted cancer treatment protocols.

A collaborative team of researchers lead by Dr. Jun Song, a member of CPLC, has uncovered the mechanisms by which mutations result in elevated TERT expression. The team’s findings, published in the May 14 issue of Science, have exciting implications for new, more precise and personalized cancer treatments with fewer side effects compared with current treatments. 

By integrating computational and experimental analyses, the researchers identified that the mechanism of increased TERT expression in tumor tissue relies on a specific transcription factor that selectively binds the mutated sequences. A transcription factor is a protein that binds specific DNA sequences and regulates how its target genes are expressed (in this case the gene that expresses TERT). Thus, the TERT mutations act as a new binding site for the transcription factor that controls TERT expression. The newly identified transcription factor does not recognize the normal TERT promoter sequence, and thus, does not regulate TERT in healthy tissue.

The full story can be viewed at Institute for Genomic Biolgy.