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Kidney cancer gene discovered

3rd April 2006

Scientists have discovered the gene responsible for causing kidney cancer, prompting hopes for the development of preventative treatments for the disease.

Faulty VHL genes which incorrectly think they are not receiving enough oxygen produce a chemical which prevents the creation of a vital protein known as e-cadherin, the scientists found.

As e-cadherin molecules help cells form healthy tissues, their shortage results in deteriorating communication between cells, resulting in conditions helping the development of cancerous cells.

Professor John Toy of Cancer Research UK commented: "This is extremely interesting research as it could pave the way for new treatments and offer hope to patients with VHL syndrome."

Other types of cancer could also benefit from the discoveries, as e-cadherin loss is common in many other variants, including breast cancer.

But, as lead researcher Professor Patrick Maxwell warns in the report, e-cadherin shortage is not the only cause of kidney cancer, meaning the extent of its significance has yet to be established.

"In fact there are probably many more factors involved, and our next task is to find out what these are, and work out the best way to prevent this disease from forming in the first place," he writes.

About 6,600 new cases of kidney cancer are diagnosed in the UK ever year, two thirds of which are found in those aged over 65.