Jialing Xiang’s research team discovered a powerful tumor suppressor found only in cancer cells, suggesting the possibility that sick cells can generate a previously unknown protein that might be able to stop tumors from growing.
Researchers have known for some time that a common protein in the body is a key component in programmed cell death—a way that the body rids itself of potentially cancerous cells. When the body fails to express the protein, it can give way to tumor formation and resistance to chemotherapy.
Xiang’s team discovered that, surprisingly, the combination of two “bad” things—two common occurrences in cancer—actually led to production of this new protein, which in studies showed signs of better response to certain chemotherapeutic drugs.
“This is ‘out of bad comes good,’” she says, “a potential new approach to utilize mistakes made in cancer cells to restore gene function exclusively in cancer cells.”