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Researchers discover new genes linked to colorectal and liver cancers

David Largaespada, Ph.D.

University of Minnesota researchers affiliated with the Masonic Cancer Center and Medical School have discovered 17 new genes linked to colorectal cancer and 15 linked to liver cancer. These cancers are the second—and third—leading causes of cancer death in the world.

Scientists hope the discovery will guide the development of new drugs and other therapies tailored to treat individual patients’ cancer.

Led by the Masonic Cancer Center’s David Largaespada, Ph.D., the senior scientist on both studies, the researchers discovered the genes using an innovative technique called the Sleeping Beauty method. This unique approach, developed by University scientists, relies on “jumping genes,” which insert themselves into or close to genes to activate or inactivate them. The method earned its name from its ability to wake genes from inactivity.

“With cancer, one size does not fit all,” says Largaespada, leader of the Masonic Cancer Center’s Genetic Mechanisms of Cancer Research Program.

“The benefit of our findings is that they bring us another step closer toward an individualized approach to cancer treatment based on getting the right drug to the right patient at the right dose for maximum effectiveness.”

The National Cancer Institute sponsored studies were published in the scientific journals Science and Nature Biotechnology.

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