Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Nobel laureate James Watson puts forth novel hypothesis on curing late-stage cancers

Date:
January 8, 2013
Source:
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Summary:
In a new paper he regards "among my most important work since the double helix," Nobelist James Watson sets forth a novel hypothesis regarding the role of oxidants and antioxidants in cancers that are currently incurable, notably in late-stage metastatic cancers.

"Although mortality from many cancers has been steadily falling, particularly those of the blood [i.e., leukemias], the more important statistic may be that so many epithelial cancers (carcinomas) and effectively all mesenchymal cancers (sarcomas) remain largely incurable."

With these words as preface, Nobel laureate James D. Watson, Ph.D., in a newly published paper that he regards "among my most important work since the double helix," sets forth a novel hypothesis regarding the role of oxidants and antioxidants in cancers that are currently incurable, notably in late-stage metastatic cancers.

At the heart of his thesis are the group of molecules that scientists call reactive oxygen species, or ROS. Noting their fundamental two-sidedness, Watson calls ROS "a positive force for life" because of their role in apoptosis -- an internal program that highly stressed cells use to commit suicide. It's one of the key mechanisms that have arisen through eons of evolution to weed out biological dysfunction that poses a threat to the survival of organisms. On the other hand, ROS are also well understood -- indeed are notorious -- "for their ability to irreversibly damage key proteins and nucleic acid molecules [e.g., DNA and RNA]."

When they're not needed to curb wayward or out of control cells, which is to say under normal circumstances, ROS are constantly being neutralized by anti-oxidative proteins. We are often urged to eat foods rich in antioxidants such as blueberries; but, if Watson is correct about the role of ROS and antioxidants in late-stage cancer, as he writes in his new paper, "blueberries best be eaten because they taste good, not because their consumption will lead to less cancer."

Understanding why this might be so -- why antioxidants can in late-stage cancers actually promote cancer progression -- is central to Watson's paper, which appears online January 9 in Open Biology, a journal of Great Britain's Royal Society.

He proposes that the cell-killing ability of currently used anti-cancer therapies -- toxic chemotherapeutic agents such as Taxol as well as radiation treatment -- is mainly due to the action of ROS to induce apoptosis, or programmed cell death. This would explain "why cancers that become resistant to chemotherapeutic control become equally resistant to radiotherapy." The common feature would be their common dependence upon a ROS-mediated cell-killing mechanism.

Watson, who is Chancellor Emeritus of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, then takes up the case of cancer cells largely driven by mutant proteins such as RAS and MYC. These, he notes, are often hardest to get to respond to treatment. He suggests this could be due to their high levels of ROS-destroying antioxidants. He cites recent research showing up-regulation of a gene transcription factor called Nrf2 when cells proliferate as well as when oncogenes such as RAS, MYC and RAF are active. Nrf2 controls the synthesis of antioxidants, and "this makes sense because we want antioxidants present when DNA functions to make more of itself," Watson writes.

In calling for "a much faster timetable for developing anti-metastatic drugs," the Nobel laureate wants those reading his new paper to consider a proposition he considers grossly underexplored: "Unless we can find ways of reducing antioxidant levels, late-stage cancer 10 years from now will be as incurable as it is today."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "Nobel laureate James Watson puts forth novel hypothesis on curing late-stage cancers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130108201639.htm>.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. (2013, January 8). Nobel laureate James Watson puts forth novel hypothesis on curing late-stage cancers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130108201639.htm
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "Nobel laureate James Watson puts forth novel hypothesis on curing late-stage cancers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130108201639.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US

Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) A disease that has killed more than six million cave-dwelling bats in the United States is on the move and wildlife biologists are worried. White Nose Syndrome, discovered in New York in 2006, has now spread to 25 states. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Companies Ramp Up Wellness to Lower Health Costs

Companies Ramp Up Wellness to Lower Health Costs

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) That little voice telling you to exercise, get in shape and get healthy is probably coming from your boss. More companies are beefing up wellness programs to try and cut down their health care costs. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Blood From World's Oldest Woman Suggests Life Limit

Blood From World's Oldest Woman Suggests Life Limit

Newsy (Apr. 24, 2014) Scientists say for the extremely elderly, their stem cells might reach a state of exhaustion. This could limit one's life span. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
FDA Wants To Ban Sales Of E-Cigarettes To Minors

FDA Wants To Ban Sales Of E-Cigarettes To Minors

Newsy (Apr. 24, 2014) The Food and Drug Administration wants to crack down on the use of e-cigarettes, banning the sale of the product to minors. 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:
from the past week

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