This site is intended for health professionals only

DNA research breakthrough could impact future cancer treatments


Insights into DNA replication from a study published last week could be applied to help develop novel cancer treatments.

Insights into DNA replication from a study published last week could be applied to help develop novel cancer treatments.

The study, carried out by the Centre for Chromosome Biology at National University of Ireland, Galway, confirmed that drugs that block CDC7 – a protein that triggers cancer cells to replicate their DNA – have the potential to stop cancer growth.

DNA replication is necessary for cancers to divide uncontrollably to form a tumour, meaning drugs that act against CDC7 stop cancer growth.

The study, published in EMBO Reports, stated: ‘These results identify a key intervention point for anticancer therapies.’

The insights are particularly relevant to the treatment of aggressive cancers such as colon and pancreatic cancers.

Researchers also suggests that drugs that block CDC7 could decrease the likelihood of breast cancer developing, and so could help in the prevention of certain types of breast cancers.

CDC7 works by activating a set of proteins at specific points on the DNA, called origins of replication, to trigger DNA replication.

Corrado Santocanale, professor of molecular medicine at NUI Galway, who led the research, said that scientists and researchers are ‘constantly looking for new and innovative treatments’ for cancer.

He added: ‘My team has shown that CDC7 has another role to play in addition to activating proteins at replication origins.’

Professor Noel Lowndes, director of the Centre for Chromosome Biology, said: ‘This study, published in the prestigious journal EMBO Reports, demonstrates how basic research, that increases our knowledge biological processes, is vital to uncover new directions to take in the effort to develop effective cancer treatments.’

Last week, data analysed by the charity Prostate Cancer UK revealed that prostate cancer is now the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK.

It also emerged that cervical screening offers will start being sent out to women across England again from this month after the invitation system was paused due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last month, NHS England recommended the use of two hormone therapy drugs, enzalutamide and abiraterone, instead of chemotherapy to treat advanced prostate cancer during the Covid-19 crisis.