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Protein saves cells, but may cause cancer

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            HEALTH TIPS - Tuesday, Aprl 10, 2007
               "News That Keeps You Healthy"   

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     Protein saves cells, but may cause cancer

COLUMBUS, Ohio, -- U.S. scientists have discovered how an 
unusual protein helps a cell avoid damage when making new 
DNA, thereby averting the cell's self-destruction. But the 
Ohio State University researchers said they also discovered 
the protein -- an enzyme called Dpo4 -- often makes errors 
when copying the genomic DNA sequence that later might cause
the cell to become cancerous. "Unrepaired DNA damage pres-
ents a big roadblock for the DNA replication machinery, 
which cannot go around it," said Zucai Suo, an OSU assistant
professor of biochemistry, noting such damage triggers cell 
death because the DNA is not replicated. Dpo4 is one of a 
family of enzymes called Y-family DNA polymerases that were 
discovered about 10 years ago and are only now becoming 
understood. "These enzymes provide a survival mechanism for 
cells," added the study's first author, graduate student 
Kevin Fiala. "They allow DNA replication to continue, so the
cell doesn't die. But they don't repair the DNA damage that 
exists." The findings are described in two back-to-back 
papers in the current issue of The Journal of Biological 
Chemistry.

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       Drug-resistant bacteria can be controlled

BOSTON,  -- U.S. medical scientists have  discovered a tech-
nique that might allow them to control drug-resistant 
bacteria. The Harvard Medical School researchers discovered 
certain combinations of antibiotics favor the growth of non-
resistant strains at the expense of resistant ones. That 
finding might help combat the spread of such microbes, as 
well as shed light on microbial ecology and evolution. Roy 
Kishony, an assistant professor of systems biology, and 
colleagues discovered that antagonistic drug combinations, 
in which the drugs' cumulative effects are less than when 
they are given separately, show such properties. At sub-
lethal concentrations a mixture of doxycycline and ciprof-
loxacin preferentially selects for wild-type Escherichia 
coli bacteria over that of a doxycyline-resistant strain 
in a laboratory culture. The finding, said Kishony, is 
surprising and counter-intuitive, since the use of anti-
biotic drugs is responsible for the generation and selection
of resistant bacterial pathogen strains. But the study 
showed that with the right combinations and concentrations,
non-resistant bacterial strains can be selected. The res-
earch is detailed in this week's issue of the journal 
Nature.

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        Myeloma trial results: a major success

ROCHESTER, Minn., -- The results of a multiple myeloma U.S. 
clinical trial are being called a major advance in the 
treatment of that disease. Scientists said the study 
compared combination treatment of oral medications 
lenalidomide and either high- or low-dose dexamethasone in 
445 patients with newly-diagnosed myeloma -- a cancer of the
white blood cells found in bone marrow. Lenalidomide plus 
high-dose dexamethasone had a one-year patient survival rate
of 86 percent. The comparative therapy using low-dose dexam-
ethasone showed a significantly higher 96.5 percent overall 
patient survival rate at one year, with much less toxicity.
"In my opinion, this is the best one-year survival data that
I've seen in a large phase 3 study in myeloma," said Dr. 
Vincent Rajkumar, a Mayo Clinic hematologist and primary 
investigator of the study. The research was coordinated by 
the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group -- a network of 
researchers at public and private institutions across the 
nation. Rajkumar said all patients on the high-dose dexam-
ethasone arm of the clinical trial will be moved to the 
low-dose arm. A successor study using lenalidomide plus 
high-dose dexamethasone was closed early as a result of the 
findings.


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