Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have discovered a gene that causes liver cancer in mice.
The gene, Foxm1b, plays an important role in allowing tissues to repair themselves in both mice and human being, but for some reason the gene is deactivated in humans as they age.
Dr. Robert Costa created a genetically modified mouse which had the Foxm1b gene deleted from the animals’ liver cells. The modified mouse did not develop liver cancer tumors and, in fact, Costa discovered he was unable to induce liver cancer tumors using a standard laboratory technique to do so. Without the Foxm1b gene, the mice appeared incapable of developing liver cancer.
In a press release announcing the publication of his findings in Genes and Development, Costa said,
To my knowledge, this is the first time a gene has been directly linked to the growth of cancer cells in live animals.
. . .
Foxm1b is expressed in many different kinds of cancer cells which leads us to believe it plays a key role in promoting the growth of tumors other than liver cancer.
Costa and his team of researchers also developed a prototype compound that inhibits Foxm1b and reduced the growth of cancer cell colonies in a laboratory setting.
We’re extremely excited about this finding because it suggests we might have a therapy for stemming the spread of liver cancer.
UIC researchers discover gene that causes liver cancer in animals. Press Release, University of Illinois at Chicago, April 1, 2004.