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Brown Cancer Center sponsors first conference on quadruplex DNA

April 17th, 2007

More than 100 scientists from across the globe will gather in Louisville April 21-24 for the first conference to focus on the role of quadruplex DNA in biology and chemistry — a new field that looks promising to cancer researchers.

“As you may have learned in your high school or college biology classes, most DNA is double-stranded,” said University of Louisville biophysicist and conference organizer Jonathan Chaires. “However, it turns out that certain DNA sequences can form a different structure in which four separate strands come together, and this is known as quadruplex DNA.”

David Davies, who discovered the quadruplex DNA phenomenon in 1962 at the National Institutes of Health, will be the conference’s opening speaker.

It wasn’t until significant progress had been made to sequence the human genome that cellular and molecular biologists found that quadruplex DNA could appear in special places in the genome. Scientists believe now that one role of quadruplex DNA may be to act as switches that “turn on” or “turn off” particular genes.

These switches may help regulate genes that contribute to or prevent the development of cancer. Scientists worldwide are looking at chemotherapy strategies that could target these four-strand genetic structures to stabilize or disrupt them, depending on the gene type.

Quadruplex DNA also may be used as a drug itself and represents the foundation of a promising new strategy for the design of cancer drugs.

One example is Agro100, a compound based on unusually stable short synthetic pieces of DNA that bind tightly to a specific protein on the surface of cancer cells and interfere with tumor growth. Developed by UofL researchers Donald Miller, John Trent and Paula Bates, Agro100 is based on a four-strand DNA structure.

“This is a very exciting area of research and we’re honored that the first international gathering of scientists in this field are coming to Louisville to collaborate,” Chaires said. “The conference will solidify the position of the Brown Cancer Center as a leader in quadruplex research.”

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