'Potentially Huge' Treatment Blocks Cancer at Gene Level

New technique snips messenger RNA in half
By Jane Yager,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 22, 2010 5:34 AM CDT
A computer illustration of a DNA sequence.   (Shutter Stock)

(Newser) – Scientists think they are onto a "potentially huge" breakthrough in the fight against cancer after successfully blocking cancer cells on a genetic level for the first time in humans. In clinical trials on cancer patients, the "game-changing" form of genetic therapy snipped in half the messenger RNA inside cancer cells that tells them to reproduce.

The research builds on the 2006 Nobel Prize-winning discovery that messenger RNA can be manipulated, but with a big difference: The work that landed the Nobel was in worms, not humans. That the technique works in humans too is "pretty amazing," a cancer expert tells HealthDay. RNA in the test subjects was "cut at exactly the right place," one of the researchers told the Pasadena Star News. "If you take that away, you take away the cancer."

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