Eight things you should know about cancer

The “guardian of the genome “. There is a protein called p53 that, although in its “normal” state, repairs damaged DNA in cells – which is why it is nicknamed the “guardian of the genome” – when it undergoes a mutation, it stops working and allows cancer to proliferate uncontrollably. Scientists are looking for chemical compounds that activate this protein to prevent cancer adequately. For example, it has been proven that one of its mechanisms of action is to detect metabolic stress and age (senescence) damaged cells to prevent them from increasing and forming tumours.


A team of Spanish researchers from Rey Juan Carlos University demonstrated that excess sugar in the diet increases the activity of a protein called b-catenin, which is closely related to tumour progression. This explains why epidemiological data show that the frequency of certain types of cancer can be twice as high in populations with high blood sugar levels, such as the obese or diabetics.

Infectious agents

According to an international study published in The Lancet Oncology, infectious agents, such as viruses, bacteria and parasites, cause two million cancer cases worldwide. In other words, 16% of cancer cases worldwide in 2008 were due to an infection that could have been prevented or treated. The central infection-related cancers are those associated with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and the papilloma, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C viruses.

ten instead of one

What we currently call breast cancer should be considered as ten different diseases, according to a revolutionary British and Canadian study published in the journal Nature. The new classification, based on the genetic fingerprint of tumours, could improve treatment by allowing drugs to be tailored to each case, increasing survival rates.

caloric restriction

Over time, a sustained decrease in food intake results in an increase in the length of telomeres – ends of chromosomes – in adult mice, which exerts a protective effect on DNA and genetic material. These beneficial effects on the youth of the chromosomes translate into a lower incidence of cancer, among other diseases associated with ageing.

cancer and electricity

Scientists at Tufts University have identified a bioelectrical signal that can determine which cells are at risk of becoming tumours. But they don’t just help predict: bioelectrical signals are an essential control mechanism for regulating how cells grow and multiply. So much so that scientists have shown that the incidence of cancer cells could be reduced by manipulating the voltage of the cell membrane. Or use these signals so that damaged organs repair themselves.


Eating French fries, battered chicken or fish, and other foods fried in abundant oil at least once a week is associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer, in addition to predisposing to a more aggressive progression of this disease, according to researchers from the Center Cancer Research Fred Hutchinson of the USA.

Partners in crime

To invade organs, cancer cells often need accomplices. Thus, for example, a team of researchers from the Institute for Biomedical Research (IRB Barcelona) discovered that the ability of colon cancer to metastasize lies in the healthy cells surrounding the tumour, the so-called stroma. In an article published in Cancer Cell, the scientists also show that removing the TGF-beta signal in the stoma makes it possible to block the initiation of metastasis.

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