DNA details may reveal where cancer begins

Wenyi Feng, PhD, is an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. (PHOTO BY WILLIAM MUELLER)

Wenyi Feng, PhD, is an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. (PHOTO BY WILLIAM MUELLER)

Nearly everyone has spots along their chromosomes that are considered “fragile,” where gaps or constrictions leave the chromosome vulnerable to breaking.

These areas are frequently affected in cancer, so they are of interest to cancer researchers including Wenyi Feng, PhD, an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Upstate.

HiRes

Feng and her colleagues use budding yeast to map chromosome breaks and determine how and where they occur in human DNA. They believe fragile sites are the result of collisions between drug-induced unstable DNA replication and untimely gene transcription. They say this phenomenon could affect important genes, such as tumor suppressors, and that could allow cancer to develop.

“While anti-cancer drugs are effective in preventing tumor cells from replicating, they can also alter gene expression simultaneously as they inhibit DNA replication, a phenomenon that has not been investigated widely,” said Feng.

Her study was published in March in the journal Genome Research with co-authors Elizabeth A. Hoffman, Andrew McCulley, Brian Haarer, PhD, and Remigiusz Arnak, PhD.

In this study, the Upstate scientists showed how to improve the sensitivity and resolution of mapping chromosome breaks using a technique called Break-seq. They hope to use the techniques to identify new cancer-associated genes.

This article appears in the summer 2015 issue of Cancer Care magazine

 

 

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