Complexities of DNA Repair Discovered

An international team of scientists led by UC Davis researchers has discovered that DNA repair in cancer cells is not a one-way street as previously believed. Their findings show instead that recombination, an important DNA repair process, has a self-correcting mechanism that allows DNA to make a virtual u-turn and start over.

The study’s findings, which appear in the Oct. 23 online issue of the journal Nature, not only contribute new understanding to the field of basic cancer biology, but also have important implications for potentially improving the efficacy of cancer treatments.

"What we discovered is that the DNA repair pathway called recombination is able to reverse itself," said Wolf-Dietrich Heyer, UC Davis professor of microbiology and of molecular and cellular biology and co-leader of Molecular Oncology at UC Davis Cancer Center. "That makes it a very robust process, allowing cancer cells to deal with DNA damage in many different ways. This repair mechanism may have something to do with why some cancer cells become resistant to radiation and chemotherapy treatments that work by inducing DNA damage."

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