California researchers announced in July that they had identified a biochemical mechanism by which high levels of cholesterol can initiate colorectal and pancreatic tumors, two of the five most common forms of cancer in the United States. Previous research had suggested a possible link between high cholesterol levels in the blood and colorectal tumors, but scientists had no clear idea about how cholesterol could trigger tumor formation.
Working with a gene known to cause colorectal and pancreatic tumors, geneticists Jasper Rine and William Schafer and colleagues at the University of California at Berkeley found that a cancer-promoting protein produced by the gene cannot attach to a cell membrane without the help of a chemical precursor of cholesterol — a chemical made at one stage in the body’s formation of cholesterol. The researchers found in test-tube experiments that drugs that block the synthesis of cholesterol can inhibit the activity of the cancer-promoting protein. Their results suggest that such drugs, as well as changes in diet, may help control the tumors in humans.
- Biochemistry in 1989: Genetic Engineering (Gene Therapy) (egrejeen.wordpress.com)