Researchers are able to do this by identifying a group of enzymes responsible for aberrations in the gene and targeting it with agents to prevent further growth of the cancer. Their findings are published in the journal Cell.
When the p.53 gene is lost, the enzymes, Type 2 PIP kinases, are responsible for the growth of cancerous cells. The p.53 gene is know as the "guardian of the genome," and once lost allows cancers to grow at will.
The enzymes come to the forefront and are responsible for cell growth when p.53 is lost due to mutation.
The researchers believe Type 2 PIP kinase inhibitors could block the growth of cancers with a mutated or missing p53 gene.
"The fact that one can delete the Type 2 PIP kinases in normal human cells or in mice with essentially no effect on cell survival suggests that inhibitors of these enzymes should have little toxicity," said lead author Dr. Lewis Cantley of Weill Cornell Medical College, in a statement.
Because it is not possible to replace p53 proteins or the gene in cells that have lost it, deactivating Type 2 PIP kinases is the next-best thing, he adds. "This would likely be a very powerful advance in the treatment of many cancers."