Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cancer Treatment and Down's Syndrome: The "Extra" Link

A large number of cancers are uncommon in individuals with Down’s syndrome. With less than 10 percent of cancer mortalities, it has become an attention-grabbing topic for scientists in the recent years.  Research done by Kwan-Hyuck Baek, Sandra Ryeom, et al. has stated that Down’s syndrome candidate region-1 (DSCR1) is an angiogenesis suppressor located in chromosome 21. Angiogenesis is the process of which new capillary blood vessels grow from existing vessels in the body, and when there is an imbalance in vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a protein that stimulates angiogenesis, it could lead to over growth and cancer. Since individuals with Down’s syndrome have an extra set of chromosome 21, it was hypothesized that they also have an extra copy of the DSCR1 gene.  Further studies have shown that chromosome 21 does indeed have genes that contribute to angiogenesis suppression; therefore, individuals with Down’s syndrome have an extra set of these genes. In this study, mice were bred with three copies of the DSCR1 gene and then injected with cancer cells. The mice in the study developed tumors roughly 50 percent slower than the mice without the extra gene. This research is imperative to the medical field because it holds the key to ultimately suppressing VEGF in cancer patients without Down’s syndrome.

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