Molecular Medicine Israel

Gene therapy could reduce radiation sickness

Genome Research, DOI: 10.1101/gr.122044.111.
Denis A. Smirnov, Lauren Brady, Krzysztof Halasa, Michael Morley, Sonia Solomon3 and Vivian G. Cheung.
Genetic variation in radiation-induced cell death

Radiation therapy to treat cancer is more effective in some people than others. A new discovery that reveals why, could help to boost effectiveness of the therapy and reduce related radiation sickness.

Vivian Cheung at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and colleagues exposed cells from 99 healthy individuals to a dose of radiation that prompts a cellular response similar to what happens during therapy. Following the dose, the activity of caspase – an “executioner” enzyme that causes cells to self destruct – increased by between 120 and 720 per cent, confirming that people respond differently to treatment.

The team also looked at gene expression before and after exposure and identified 335 genes whose variation in expression correlated with caspase activity. Silencing five genes whose expression negatively correlated with caspase activity significantly increased cancer cells’ sensitivity to radiation (Genome Research, DOI: 10.1101/gr.122044.111).

“Augmenting the sensitivity of cancer cells so that a lower dose of radiation can be given” could reduce side effects, says Cheung.


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