Portuguese create a new method to define aggressiveness of cancers

Portuguese researchers have found a way to assess the aggressiveness of certain types of cancer by identifying genes present in problems in the mechanism of cell division responsible for tumour formation.

The research led by Nuno Barbosa Morais, from the Institute of Molecular Medicine, in a team that also includes researchers from the Institute of Research and Innovation in Health of Porto and the Gulbenkian Institute of Science, dedicated to identifying certain genes associated with tumours in which there are anomalies in the mechanism of cell division.

We were able to better define the most effective type of cancer, prognosis and therapies,” told Barbosa Morais.

When a cell divides for the first time, two centrosomes are formed, which are subunits of the cells that help them divide.

In cancer cases, this mechanism is broken, instead of two centrosomes, three or four are formed and DNA is poorly distributed in the daughter cells,” he said, noting that the more centrosomes, the more malignant the form of cancer.

But detecting these abnormal centrosomes is “very difficult experimentally,” so the team led by the researcher went in search of genes, choosing a gallery of twenty associated with abnormalities in the centrosome, from the analysis of thousands of different tumours.

Thus, we have a surrogate for these abnormalities, which happens at different levels in different types of cancer. This signature gives us more cancer weaknesses from the therapeutic point of view so that we can attack the tumours from the genes,” said investigator.

The IMM study is now published in the open access scientific journal PLoS Computational Biology and identifies the dominant presence of this genetic “signature” in aggressive forms of breast cancer.

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