University of  Sussex MEDIA RELEASE

The Information Office, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9RH.

22 September l998 For immediate release


New research at the University of Sussex into one of the body's safety mechanisms could be the key to understanding why sufferers of two rare diseases run a higher risk of cancer. It could also have implications for the development of cancer in the general population.

Dr Johanne Murray of the University's School of Biological Sciences has been awarded £l00,000 by the Cancer Research Campaign to research a family of molecules called RecQ. It is already understood that people with two rare diseases - Blooms syndrome and Werners syndrome - have a faulty RecQ helicase and are more prone to cancer.

According to Dr. Murray, "We are very interested in these molecules because they seem to play a crucial role in protecting people against cancer. Understanding more about how they work could pave the way for new treatments for Bloom's and Werner's syndromes and might even help in the treatment of cancers across the board. RecQ helicases really could be important molecules."

Dr. Murray is studying RecQ helicases in yeast because they are similar to the human ones but easier to work with. And she is focusing on these molecules' role during cell growth. All the cells in our bodies contain genetic information - or DNA - which tells them how to behave. And, in order to grow, cells make a replica copy of all their genetic information and then divide into two so that each new cell contains identical DNA.

Cancer develops when cells' DNA is damaged and the problem is made worse by the fact that as cells divide or grow this damage is passed on to lots of other cells. According to Dr. Murray, the RecQ helicases work by helping cells with damaged DNA repair themselves before they divide so that early beginnings of cancer can be wiped out before they take hold.

Dr. Trevor Hince, the Scientific Director of the Cancer Research Campaign stresses the significance of Dr. Murray's work. "It is very important because it is investigating the causes of cancer at a very fundamental level. Her work with this family of molecules will increase our knowledge of the disease and could open the door for the development of new treatments for it."

For further information please contact Sue Yates, Information Officer, University of Sussex, Tel. 01273 678384, Fax 01273 678335, email OR Spencer Vignes at the Cancer Research Campaign on 0171 222 4884

Note for editors.
Bloom's syndrome and Werner's syndrome are inherited diseases that make the sufferers more prone to cancer. Bloom's syndrome is rare except in Ashkenazi Jews and is associated with leukaemia and other cancers. Werner's syndrome is rare except in the Japanese and is associated with various cancers, in particular those of soft tissue like muscle and cartilage.

File maintained by USIS - 21st September 1998