University of GothenburgScientists from the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg are believed to have discovered a novel cancer gene. This gene may possibly cause a dangerous form of glandular cancer typically in the head and neck. Also, in women it could occur in the breast. Apparently, this discovery could result in faster and improved diagnosis along with more effective treatment.

The cancer caused by this new cancer gene is known as adenoid cystic carcinoma. Moreover, this cancer appears to be a slow-growing but fatal form of cancer. Currently, the study group seems to be able in showing that the gene is present in nearly 100% of these tumors, which means that a genetic test could simply be used in order to make a proper diagnosis.

“Now that we know what the cancer is down to, we can also develop new and more effective treatments for this often highly malignant and insidious form of cancer. One possibility might be to develop a drug that quite simply turns off this gene,” says professor Goran Stenman, who heads the research group at the Lundberg Laboratory for Cancer Research at the Sahlgrenska Academy.

The recently discovered cancer gene seems to be known as a fusion gene which is created when two healthy genes join together due to a chromosome change.

Stenman further stated that, “Previously it was thought that fusion genes pretty much only caused leukaemia, but our group can now show that this type of cancer gene is also common in glandular cancer.”

It was noted that one of the two genes that form the fusion gene is known as MYB. Amongst other things, this gene may possibly control cell growth and makes sure that the body gets rid of cells that are no longer required.

MYB appears to have long been known to be an extremely potent cancer gene in animals. However, for a long time there seems to be no evidence of the gene being involved in the development of tumors in humans.

“We suggested back in 1986 that the MYB gene might be involved in this form of cancer, but it’s only recently that we’ve had access to the tools needed to prove it,” continues Stenman.

The study authors were believed to have also examined the mechanism behind the transformation of the normal MYB gene into a cancer gene. Genes could perhaps be compared to blueprints for proteins. It was observed that carefully controlled regulating systems then establish when and how much of each protein is formed.

One such regulating system which was discovered in recent times appears to be known as microRNA. This system may be able to turn genes on and off. When the cancer gene forms, this important control system could be put out of action. This seems to result in activation of the gene and massive overproduction of an abnormal MYB protein with carcinogenic properties.

Stenman claimed that this is a noteworthy discovery, because it’s a new mechanism which may possibly turn out to be relatively common in a variety of human cancers.

The title of the study is known as ‘Recurrent fusion of the MYB and NFIB transcription factor genes in carcinomas of the breast and head and neck.’

The findings of the study have been published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).