Researchers may have found a way to stop cancer cells from defending themselves against chemotherapy. In a new mouse study, blocking a DNA repair pathway prevented cancer cells from surviving or becoming resistant to treatment.
Graham Walker, the American Cancer Society Research Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, is one of the senior authors of the new paper.
In his previous research, Prof. Walker studied a DNA repair process that cancer cells rely on to avoid the damage of chemotherapy. This process is called translesion synthesis (TLS).
As the researchers explain, healthy cells can normally repair DNA by accurately removing DNA damage.
However, when cells become cancerous, they can no longer rely on this normal repair system. Instead, they use TLS, which is less accurate.
Specifically, TLS uses specialized TLS DNA polymerases. Polymerases are enzymes that can make copies of DNA. Normal DNA polymerases copy DNA accurately, but TLS DNA polymerases replicate damaged DNA in a less accurate fashion.