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Promise and Progress - Gene Hunters Pinpoint New Cancer Gene Target

Faces of Childhood Cancer

Gene Hunters Pinpoint New Cancer Gene Target

Date: June 1, 2004

Science, March 11, 2004

Investigators have identified mutations in a gene known as PIK3CA and linked them to the progression of colon and other cancers. Their discovery identifies this gene as one of the most highly mutated genes in human cancer that could serve as a target for new cancer therapies and diagnostic tests. The PIK3CA gene is part of a family of genes that encode lipid kinases, enzymes that modify fatty molecules and direct cells to grow, change shape or move. “Kinases have been the focus of recent drug development strategies, with some kinase-inhibiting compounds, like Gleevec and Herceptin, already being used in patients to block tumor growth,” says Victor Velculescu, M.D., who is leading the study. Velculescu and team are now studying the role of the gene in tumor progression more closely and working to identify drugs to target tumors with the mutation.

This research was funded by the Ludwig Trust, the Benjamin Baker Scholarship Fund, the EMBO Fellowship Fund and the National Institutes of Health.