Uncontrollable cell growth is the hallmark of cancer, but new research from the University of Rochester Medical Center may have figured out a way to slow this down. The finding, though still in its early stages, could halt cancer's progression and give doctors more time to treat the disease.

The study, now published online in Science, found a way to slow cancer growth in  kidney and cervical cancer cells in the laboratory by eliminating a protein called Tudor-SN from the cells using the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9. According to the research, eliminating this protein caused the cells to require more time to divide, which slowed down the entire process.

"We know that Tudor-SN is more abundant in cancer cells than healthy cells, and our study suggests that targeting this protein could inhibit fast-growing cancer cells," said lead study author Reyad A. Elbarbary in a recent statement.

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Cells grow and divide every day, which is why the cells in your body right now are not the same cells that were in your body when you were born. Sometimes an error, or mutation, can be caused by environmental or lifestyle factors, genetic disposition, or just randomly. According to the Science Museum, cancer starts when a single cell begins to grow and multiply too much.  According to Cancer Research UK, some genes get damaged every day but cells are usually good at repairing them. However, in the event of continual mutations, the damage may build up. In addition, erratic cell growth means that new cells are more likely to pick up further mutations and less likely to be able to repair the damaged genes.

This growth can result in a tumor, which may or not be malignant. In other forms of cancer, such as leukemia, a cancer of the blood, the cell growth does not form a solid tumor but rather causes a buildup of cells in the blood or the bone marrow, Cancer Research UK reported. In the case of malignant tumors, cells from the tissue can then enter the bloodstream, spreading the cancer to other parts of the body in a process called metastasis.

In the newest study, the team identified Tudor-SN as one of the main influencers of cell growth. In addition, they also noted that when this protein was removed from human cells, cell growth moved more slowly.

“Because cancer cells have a faulty cell cycle, pursuing factors involved in the cell cycle is a promising avenue for cancer treatment," explained senior study author Lynne E. Maquat, in the statement.

More research is needed, but the team hopes this finding may pave the way for more techniques to treat and prevent cancer. The next step is to identify drugs that will best block this protein.

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