Inactivating a certain gene may help block tumor growth, according to a study published in Oncogene (2010 May 20;29(20):2905-15).

The study, led by John Copland, PhD, a cancer biologist at Mayo Clinic, focuses on a gene called GATA3 that has been silenced in clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) and is a key gene lost in breast cancer.

Researchers explained that two classes of drugs known as histone methyltransferase inhibitors and histone deacetylase inhibitors reverse the blocks that cancer puts on key genes like GATA3 . For the study, researchers used drugs that worked together to reverse methylation and deacetylation.

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Simon Cooper, PhD, a molecular biologist at the Mayo Clinic, said that while the drugs used in the study need to be tested in kidney cancer animal models, the results prove that that the two drugs can synergize to restore GATA function.

In 2003, Dr. Copland and his team found that the loss of a tumor suppressor gene called TbRIII played a critical role in kidney cancer cell growth. “We believe TbRIII is a tumor suppressor which is lost in a number of cancer,” said Dr. Copland. “In ccRCC, every patient tumor that we have examined has lost the expression of this receptor as well as GATA3.”

“Now that we understand why TbRIII is not expressed in kidney cancer, we can potentially turn the gene back on by reactivating GATA3 using methyltransferase and histone deacetylase inhibitors,” Dr. Copland concluded.