`On and Off’ Epigenetic Switch Mechanism behind Developing Different Types of Cancer: Research

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
May 17, 2014

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Cancer ProgressionIn a recent study, it was found by the researchers that the progression of cancer is initiated by an epigenetic `on and off’ switch.

The researchers, including one of Indian-origin, said that the switch can be the common system which works behind developing the different types of cancer.
Epigenetics can be defined as the phenomena in which the genetically identical cells express their genes differently and these phenomena results in the different physical traits.

According to the current archetype, cancer develops from environmental and genetic changes to cancer progenitor cells. These changes are a result of mutations, exposure to toxic substance, or hormonal imbalances.
Instructor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, Sibaji Sarkar said "if we believe that everything in nature occurs in an organised fashion, then it is logical to assume that cancer development cannot be as disorganised as it may seem’’.

He added "there should be a general mechanism that initiates cancer progression from predisposed progenitor cells, which likely involves epigenetic changes".

To support the existence of this epigenetic switch, the researchers stated the fact that tumours also develop through different stages.

While cancer develops, the cells grow at a rapid rate and get stuck in their current stage of development without any changes in their characteristics.

This becomes the reason behind different forms of leukemia. The characteristics a leukemia cell has at the beginning of its rapid growth and expansion will remain the same until the growth stops.

Sarkar said "if we believe that all of the irreversible changes, mutations and effects of carcinogens make cells rapidly grow, then the mechanism that allows cells to stop growing and assume new changes in character must be of great importance. The study of cancer progression is key to understanding how cancer cells continue to differentiate".

When the cancer progresses the rapid growth and differentiation takes place at different stages.

To achieve a control for this switch between growth and differentiation, reversible mechanisms like epigenetic changes must take place.

The study was has been published in the journal Anticancer Research and Epigenomics.

Image courtesy: Getty Images

News source: Financial Express

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