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Protein repairs esophageal DNA damage

Jan. 25, 2012, 9:48 AM

While rates of many cancer types are holding steady or decreasing, rates of esophageal cancer have increased sixfold in the past 30 years. Gastric reflux, a major risk factor for esophageal cancer, brings gastric juices and bile acids into the esophagus, causing inflammation and DNA damage, which if left uncorrected can initiate tumor formation.

(iStock)

Alexander Zaika, Ph.D., and colleagues are examining the involvement of the p53 tumor suppressor family of proteins in repairing the DNA damage associated with gastric reflux.

In the December FASEB Journal, the researchers show that one member of this family, p73, plays the predominant role in repairing DNA damage induced by bile acid exposure. They found that the p73 protein regulates the expression of multiple DNA repair genes and that p73 deficiency in mice is associated with increased DNA damage. The results suggest that p73 may play a tumor suppressor role in the esophagus and could represent a target for therapies to combat esophageal cancer.

The research was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute.

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