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The TP53 Gene and Its Role in Cancer

The TP53 gene (located on chromosome 17) is the most common gene mutation found in cancer cells. Mutated TP53 gene is found in over 50% of cancers.

This tumor-suppressor gene that has been coined "the guardian of the genome," codes for a protein that inhibits the development and growth of tumors. When inactivated, TP53 can also play a role in the persistence, growth, and spread of a cancer that develops.

How the TP53 Gene May Be Damaged (Inactivated)

The TP53 gene may be damaged (mutated) by cancer-causing substances in the environment (carcinogens) such as tobacco smoke, ultraviolet light, and the chemical aristolochic acid (with bladder cancer). Often times, however, the toxin leading to the mutation is unknown.

What Happens If the TP53 Gene Is Inactivated?

If the TP53 gene is inactivated, it no longer codes for the proteins that lead to the functions that inhibit the development and growth of tumors. Thus, when another form of DNA damage occurs in another region of the genome, the damage is not repaired and may result in the development of cancer.

Can the TP53 Gene Be Reactivated?

Due to the great importance TP53 mutations play in cancer, researchers have been looking for ways to reactivate the gene. Though the science is very complex, it is advancing, and small molecules known as MDMX inhibitors are now being evaluated in clinical trials for people with blood-related cancers.

If you are interested in learning more about

  • the functions of TP53,

  • how it works to stop cancer from forming,

  • how is may be damaged, and

  • therapies that may help to reactivate its effect,

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