Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sifting through 'junk' to find colorectal cancer clues

Date:
May 3, 2012
Source:
Dartmouth College
Summary:
Analysis of non-coding "junk" DNA has identified switches capable of turning on or off genes associated with the very common cancer.

Two researchers at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth have helped to identify switches that can turn on or off genes associated with colorectal cancer. The finding offers clues about the development of colorectal cancer and could -- potentially -- provide targets for new therapies. Jason Moore, Third Century Professor of genetics and the director of the Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Sciences, and Richard Cowper-Sal.lari, a graduate student in Moore's lab, were part of a team that included researchers from Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic.

The team published its findings in Science Express, the online pre-publication site for the journal Science, on April 12.

Many studies of cancer and other diseases have looked for genetic variations that lead to disease. But for this study, Moore, Cowper-Sal.lari, and their colleagues examined sections of DNA that do not code for proteins -- sections that have sometimes been referred to as "junk" DNA. Long overlooked, junk DNA has gained more attention of late as it has become clear that it can regulate the expression of genes.

"We're now starting to assign function to what historically has been known as the junk DNA -- stuff in between genes that we weren't really sure what it did, if it did anything at all," Moore says. Proteins that bind to noncoding sections far away from a gene, Moore explains, can help turn that gene on or off.

The researchers looked at specific sections of noncoding DNA in nine colorectal cancer samples and three samples of healthy colon tissue. They found patterns in the sections of noncoding DNA that differed depending on whether the tissue was cancerous or healthy. They refer to these sections as variant enhancer loci (VELs). Cowper-Sal.lari says that the patterns they found are more reliable indicators of the presence of colorectal cancer than any currently known patterns of gene expression. "You get a very crisp signal," he says. The tumor samples were taken from patients at various stages of disease, adding to the strength of the finding.

Moore, who is also the associate director for bioinformatics at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, adds that what he and Cowper-Sal.lari added to the study was their ability to make sense of mountains of data by developing computer programs and algorithms.

"It's an exciting time in cancer research because we can now sequence entire human genomes and measure the genome on a massive scale, but what's lagging behind are the computational methods -- the software, the algorithms, the statistical approaches -- to allow us to make sense of this vast amount of information," Moore says. "The DNA sequencing technology to generate the data is moving a lot faster than the computational methods for making sense of it."

Cowper-Sal.lari adds that the intense computation required to do the analysis was only possible because of access to Discovery -- Dartmouth's supercomputing cluster.

There are a number of directions the research could go in the future. Cowper-Sal.lari says that if they are able to look at additional samples and find the same patterns, then "the genes that are the targets of these VELs are going to be really good potential therapeutic targets for colorectal cancer."

"That's the ultimate goal -- to develop drugs," Moore says. "If we can understand the biology of how these genes are turned on and off in cancer, then we can develop drugs to target them and turn them on or off."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Dartmouth College. The original article was written by Amos Esty. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. B. Akhtar-Zaidi, R. Cowper-Sal{middle dot}lari, O. Corradin, A. Saiakhova, C. F. Bartels, D. Balasubramanian, L. Myeroff, J. Lutterbaugh, A. Jarrar, M. F. Kalady, J. Willis, J. H. Moore, P. J. Tesar, T. Laframboise, S. Markowitz, M. Lupien, P. C. Scacheri. Epigenomic Enhancer Profiling Defines a Signature of Colon Cancer. Science, 2012; DOI: 10.1126/science.1217277

Cite This Page:

Dartmouth College. "Sifting through 'junk' to find colorectal cancer clues." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120503162019.htm>.
Dartmouth College. (2012, May 3). Sifting through 'junk' to find colorectal cancer clues. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120503162019.htm
Dartmouth College. "Sifting through 'junk' to find colorectal cancer clues." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120503162019.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Fears Keep Guinea Hospitals Empty

Ebola Fears Keep Guinea Hospitals Empty

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) Fears of Ebola are keeping doctors and patients alike away from hospitals in the West African nation of Guinea. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Orthodontist Mom Jennifer Salzer on the Best Time for Braces

Orthodontist Mom Jennifer Salzer on the Best Time for Braces

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Is your child ready? Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.S. Issues Ebola Travel Restrictions, Are Visa Bans Next?

U.S. Issues Ebola Travel Restrictions, Are Visa Bans Next?

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) Now that the U.S. is restricting travel from West Africa, some are dropping questions about a travel ban and instead asking about visa bans. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
More People Diagnosed With TB In 2013, But There's Good News

More People Diagnosed With TB In 2013, But There's Good News

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) The World Health Organizations says TB numbers rose in 2013, but it's partly due to better detection and more survivors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

More Coverage


Breakthrough Discovery Unveils Master Switches in Colon Cancer

Apr. 12, 2012 Researchers have identified a new mechanism by which colon cancer develops. By focusing on segments of DNA located between genes, or so-called “junk DNA,” the team has discovered a set of master ... read more

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins