Cancer taking the Myc

18 Aug 2008

Therapies that block the action of a gene called ‘Myc’ may prove useful against cancer, suggest results from a mouse study in this week’s Nature.

Myc is a regulatory gene found in normal, healthy cells. However, it is commonly overexpressed in tumours, making it a possible target for anti-cancer therapies. Gerard Evan and colleagues now show that when Myc is inhibited in a mouse model of lung cancer, early and established tumours quickly regress. Importantly, in this model Myc was not overexpressed, demonstrating that Myc might be a more general therapy target.

Critics warn that cancer therapies that block Myc could cause devastating side effects because the gene helps regenerative tissues, such as those found in skin and bone marrow, to replenish themselves. Although the mice in this study showed no overt signs of ill health or distress, bone marrow proliferation and white blood cell count were reduced, and the animals also became anaemic. However, the side effects were short lived and disappeared after two weeks, suggesting that Myc may be a viable anti-cancer target after all.

DOI: 10.1038/nature07260