Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists have discovered new details of how cancer cells escape from tumor suppression mechanisms that normally prevent these damaged cells from multiplying. They also demonstrated a potential link between this cell proliferation control mechanism and the cognitive deficits caused by Down syndrome.
James A. DeCaprio, MD, of Dana-Farber said the results may provide new targets both for blocking the progress of cancer and perhaps for facilitating the growth of neurons in the developing brains of infants with Down syndrome.
DYRK1A's ability to turn off cell growth genes may also be involved in the lower-than-normal development of brain neurons in Down syndrome, say the scientists, who are investigating possible new avenues to treating the disorder.
While they tend to have cognitive losses, people with Down syndrome have a markedly lower risk of most types of cancer. DYRK1A is made by a gene on chromosome 21, which is present in three copies instead of the normal two in people with Down syndrome, causing the enzyme to be overproduced. DeCaprio said this abnormal activity could explain both outcomes: DYRKIA-triggered DREAM formation could help suppress cancers by driving them into senescence, and also reduce the generation of brain cells during development.