Scrubbing our cells clean - A study by the MUHC and McGill University opens a new door to understanding cancer

    MONTREAL, Aug. 9 /CNW Telbec/ - An in-depth understanding of the
mechanisms that trigger cancer cell growth is vital to the development of more
targeted treatments for the disease. An article published in the August 3
issue of Molecular Cell provides a key to these mechanisms that may prove
crucial in the future. The paper is co-authored by Dr Morag Park, Director of
the MUHC Molecular Oncology Group, and Dr Kalle Gehring, Head of the Nuclear
Magnetic Resonnance Laboratory of the McGill University Biochemistry
    "To understand cancer, it is necessary to first understand how the
molecules interact," explains Dr. Park, who is also a Professor of oncology
and biochemistry at McGill University. "In that study we have clarified the
structure of some of the proteins involved and their connections, which allows
us to understand the consequences of these interactions." This is, in fact, a
feat that merits close attention, because it means that researchers can now
"see" elements smaller than a millionth of a millimetre!
    In a cell's interior, the function of the ubiquitin molecule is to "clean
house." It attaches itself to proteins that must disappear and triggers their
degradation; in doing so, it allows a number of mechanisms to be minutely
controlled. This new study reveals that ubiquitin also promotes interactions
between proteins known as Cb-b. In a healthy patient, Cb-b is activated when a
growth factor attaches itself to the surface of a cell, its role being to
mitigate the cell proliferation and growth mechanisms induced by the factor.
However, in some cancer patients this mitigation mechanism does not appear to
function, partly because the ubiquitin does not attach itself correctly to the
cell surface and to Cb-b. As a result, the effects of the growth factor become
much more pronounced, which results in an unrestrained proliferation of cells
- that can become a cancer.
    "In the long term, this may serve as a basis for us to find ways to
intervene in this chain reaction and discover a treatment" adds Dr. Gehring.
"This new information about ubiquitin marks an important advance in our
understanding of the mechanisms associated with cancer and contributes to the
fight against the disease by directing us towards research avenues for new

    The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC)
is a world-renowned biomedical and health-care hospital research centre.
Located in Montreal, Quebec, the institute is the research arm of the MUHC, a
university health center affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill
University. The institute supports over 500 researchers, nearly 1000 graduate
and post-doctoral students and operates more than 300 laboratories devoted to
a broad spectrum of fundamental and clinical research. The Research Institute
operates at the forefront of knowledge, innovation and technology and is
inextricably linked to the clinical programs of the MUHC, ensuring that
patients benefit directly from the latest research-based knowledge. For
further details visit:

    About McGill University

    McGill University is Canada's leading research-intensive university and
has earned an international reputation for scholarly achievement and
scientific discovery. Founded in 1821, McGill has 21 faculties and
professional schools, which offer more than 300 programs from the
undergraduate to the doctoral level. McGill attracts renowned professors and
researchers from around the world and top students from more than
150 countries, creating one of the most dynamic and diverse education
environments in North America. There are approximately 23,000 undergraduate
students and 7,000 graduate students. It is one of two Canadian members of the
American Association of Universities. McGill's two campuses are located in
Montreal, Canada.

For further information:

For further information: Isabelle Kling, Communications Coordinator
(research), MUHC Public Relations and Communications, (514) 934-1934 #36419,

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The Montreal Children's Hospital

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