A Lucky Brake


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400 genes respond to growth signals







When a normal cell complies with a signal telling it to divide, it also begins to activate a “braking system” that eventually stops cell division. If that system is faulty, cancerous growth can result. As reported in Nature Genetics, Weizmann scientists sifted through a huge quantity of data on genes and their activities to identify some of the genes involved in this system of braking.


To tackle this monumental task, a team of Weizmann Institute researchers from diverse fields – Prof. Yosef Yarden of the Biological Regulation Department, Prof. Eytan Domany of the Physics of Complex Systems Department, Prof. Uri Alon of the Molecular Cell Biology Department and Dr. Eran Segal of the Computer Science and Applied Mathematics Department – pooled their knowledge and experience. Working with them were Prof. Gideon Rechavi of the Sheba Medical Center and researchers from the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, headed by Prof. Gordon B. Mills.


In tests conducted on tissue from ovarian cancer patients, the scientists found a correlation between levels of activity in the “braking” genes, rates of survival and the aggressiveness of the disease. These findings point the way toward the development of a personal genetic profile that might pinpoint the genetic defects responsible for each individual cancer and help doctors tailor a treatment best suited to that particular patient. Such a genetic profile can also help predict the progression of the disease in each case.


Also participating in the study were research students Ido Amit, Ami Citri, Gabi Tarcic and Menachem Katz of the Biological Regulation Department and Tal Shay of the Physics of Complex Systems Department.   


Prof. Yosef Yarden’s research is supported by the M. D. Moross Institute for Cancer Research; the Goldhirsh Foundation; the Batsheva de Rothschild Foundation; Mr. Daniel Falkner, UK; the estate of Dr. Marvin Klein, Farmington Hills, MI; and Mrs. Bram Laub, Belgium. Prof. Yarden is the incumbent of the Harold and Zelda Goldenberg Professorial Chair in Molecular Cell Biology.