Cambridge study finds 'on/off protein cancer switch'

Researchers in Cambridgeshire have identified a key protein that can trigger ovarian or testicular cancers.

Malignant germ cell tumours arise in sperm or egg forming cells containing large amounts of the protein LIN28, Cambridge University researchers said.

They now hope their breakthrough will enable new drugs to be found to neutralise the protein which they regard as an on/off cancer switch.

The tumours are found in patients of all ages including children and adults.

Current chemotherapy treatments can have severe long-term side effects, including hearing loss and damage to the kidneys, lungs and bone marrow, the researchers said.

Testicular cancer continues to be a leading cause of death in young men.

Nick Coleman, professor of molecular pathology at Cambridge University said: "We need new ways of treating patients with malignant germ cell tumours to minimise the toxic effects of chemotherapy and to improve survival rates when tumours are resistant to treatment.

"Having identified this 'on/off' switch, it will now be important to identify new drugs that can be used to keep it in the 'off' position."

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