Researchers have discovered an important step in a process of a gene mutation that appears to play a crucial role in the development of colon cancers, the second most prevalent form of cancer.
In two separate studies published simultaneously in the current issue of Nature, the British science journal, researchers said they found that a normal gene, which is called ras and is found in cells lining the colon and rectum, can mutate into an oncogene that spurs cancerous growth.
"Our eventual hope is that by understanding the mechanism of tumors we will perhaps be allowed an intelligent way to design preventive measures," said Dr. Bert Vogelstein of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a co-author of one report.
In colon cancer, cells along the lining of the colon or rectum grow to form polyps, which then become cancerous. Vogelstein said cells must undergo a series of genetic mutations before reaching the cancerous stage.