COLUMBUS, Ohio, March 31 (UPI) — U.S. medical scientists say they’ve found a gene that normally protects the body against cancer can itself cause a variety of cancers if it becomes mutated.
Ohio State University researchers led by Associate Professor Gustavo Leone said they examined a gene called PTEN, which, when mutated, causes Cowden syndrome — a condition that carries a high risk of cancer in various organs, including the breast, thyroid and ovaries. In addition, muted PTEN also can lead to prostate, lung and pancreatic cancers.
Why people with Cowden syndrome develop different cancers is unknown,
In the animal study, however, the scientists linked specific mutations in the gene to distinct kinds of cancer in various organs.
“We showed mutations themselves play a critical role in driving the cancers that occur in certain organs in people with Cowden syndrome,” Leone said. “Together, our findings demonstrate specific inherited PTEN mutations have a strong influence in the variable predisposition to cancer of patients with Cowden syndrome.”
Co-principle investigator Professor Michael Ostrowski added, “Mutations in this gene also play a role in developmental disabilities and perhaps in autism, so this mouse model might be useful for studies in those conditions, as well.”
The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest testing for specific PTEN mutations might predict the kind and severity of cancer that will develop in people with the syndrome.
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