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Gene May Offer Target to Boost Radiation Therapy

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Blocking the action of a gene that repairs damaged DNA increases the effectiveness of radiation therapy against cancer, according to British researchers. The finding may lead to new drugs to improve outcomes for patients undergoing radiation therapy.

Tumors have widely varying responses to radiation therapy, but the reasons for this are largely unknown, BBC News reported.

The University of Oxford team examined 200 candidate genes. In laboratory tests, the scientists found that blocking the POLQ gene in several types of cancer cells made the cells more vulnerable to radiation therapy. Blocking POLQ in healthy cells had no effect on their sensitivity to radiation.

Because POLQ appears to be more abundant in cancer cells than in healthy cells, it may be a good target for enhancing the effects of radiation therapy, said the researchers, BBC News reported.

The study was published in the journal Cancer Research.