Keck Medicine of USC scientists have discovered new clues about a drug instrumental in treating a certain blood cancer that may provide important targets for researchers searching for cures.
The team investigated whether demethylation of gene bodies induced by the drug 5-Aza-CdR (decitabine), which is used to treat pre-leukemia, could alter gene expression and possibly be a therapeutic target in cancer.
"When we put the drug in cancer cells, we found it not only reactivated some tumor suppressor genes, but it down-regulated the overexpressed oncogene (cancer gene)," said Gangning Liang, Ph.D., associate professor of research, Keck School of Medicine of USC Department of Urology, who is corresponding author on the research. "Overexpression is what turns cancer 'on.' The mechanism by which the drug accomplishes this dual action is by removing DNA methylation in the gene body, which we didn't expect."