May 20, 2013 | by Hiu Chung So
Although researchers have long known that chronic inflammation is tied to a higher cancer risk, the exact mechanism connecting them remains a mystery. But City of Hope scientists have identified a gene, called Rrm2b, that may fill in a piece of that puzzle.
The findings were published in a Cell Reports article earlier this month. In the study, the authors found that RRM2b (the enzyme manufactured by the Rrm2b gene) is responsible for DNA damage repair, and that animal subjects with deficient Rrm2b genes are more prone to developing blood cancers.
The researchers also found that Rrm2b gene loss leads to chromosomal abnormalities and triggers the secretion of pro-inflammatory molecules, both contributing to cancerous changes in cells.
“Our previous clinical data suggested that RRM2b protein levels are inversely associated with cancer progression,” said Lufen Chang, Ph.D., assistant research scientist in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and lead author of this study. “Based on this study’s findings, we concluded that Rrm2b deficiency may be a potential risk factor for hematologic malignancies.”
Chang said these findings could be used to help develop a diagnostic marker for lymphoma and multiple myeloma.
It could also be used to personalize cancer treatment, according to Chang. By identifying patients who have deleted, deficient or mutated Rrm2b genes, measures can be taken to prevent or minimize the inflammatory and DNA-damaging side effects of radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
Chang is currently continuing to study the roles of Rrm2b and RRM2b in multiple myeloma and hopes to develop a model explaining molecular processes that lead to the disease’s development.
Meanwhile, because chronic inflammation is associated with cancer, diabetes and other serious diseases, it is important to make lifestyle choices to reduce inflammation. This includes a healthy diet, regular exercise, reducing stress and getting adequate sleep.