Research on telomeres could reveal how cancer cells become immortal

February 18, 2015

Dr. David Picketts was recently awarded a grant worth $120,000 from the Cancer Research Society to study how cancer cells manipulate the ends of their chromosomes – called telomeres – to defy the normal limits of cell division and grow into large tumours. As most cells divide, their telomeres slowly erode until they reach a threshold size that provides a signal for the cell to stop dividing. However, cancer cells often have genetic mutations that allow them to extend their telomeres indefinitely, thereby allowing them to grow uncontrollably. Dr. Picketts is studying how a gene called ATRX helps to maintain normal telomeres and prevent the development of cancer, particularly in the brain and pancreas. This research could lead to the development of novel cancer treatments.

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