A team of scientists at the University of Hyderabad claim to have discovered the rogue gene responsible for various types of cancer, especially breast cancer. HPIP (Haematopoietic PBX-interacting protein), commonly called the “culprit gene”, plays a crucial role in the development of breast cancer in women. Its discovery is considered to be a breakthrough as it can help find a better treatment for cancer.
The findings of the team, led by Professor Bramanandam Manavathi of the biotechnology department at the University of Hyderabad, were recently published in the Journal of Biochemistry.
Cancer is caused by uncontrollable cell division. Studying the defect or role of proteins in each phase of the cell cycle (division of cells) is exploratory research to control cancer cell growth. The UoH team, which is currently researching the various causes of cancer, had first reported the role of the HPIP gene in breast cancer in 2015, following which other research groups around the world expanded the significance of the gene in causing other forms of cancers such as liver, brain, stomach etc.
The group has now unravelled the protein structure of HPIP to understand how the culprit gene works and this, they believe, will help develop drugs that can tackle cancer in humans more effectively.
According to the team’s findings, HPIP is a dimeric protein or a protein made of two parts. The gene plays an important role in cell division. While cell division is very important for the growth of any animal, sometimes the mechanism can go awry, leading to irregular division. This irregular division leads to the growth of life-threatening tumours.
The UoH team has found that the HPIP is a dimer protein, which they claim is a major breakthrough in stopping it from undergoing division, which, in turn, will prevent the formation of tumours.
The study not only underscores the importance of HPIP gene in the irregular cell division, but also stresses on considering HPIP as a potential target to discover cancer remedies.
Prof Brahmanandam said that the team is now working to find inhibitors for the genes (which will prevent the cell division) in order to develop an appropriate drug that can better treat cancer.
"We are working on inhibitors to block the gene from undergoing the process of dimerisation (division). Once the inhibitors are identified, all types of cancer can be cured with the help of a novel drug,” the professor claimed while talking to the media on Saturday.