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Organ size may be linked with cancer

BALTIMORE, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists have discovered a chemical chain reaction that controls animals' organ size might also control cancer.

"This chain reaction, a domino-like chain of events we call the Hippo pathway, adds a single chemical group on a protein nicknamed Yap," said Johns Hopkins University Associate Professor Duojia Pan.

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"The good news is that maybe all organ growth can be reduced to this one chemical event on the Yap protein," said Pan. "But the better news is that we potentially have a new target for cancer therapy."

Pan and colleagues previously discovered in fruit flies that too much Yap supercharges growth-inducing genes and causes organs to overgrow. In the new study designed to see if the same effect occurred in mammals, the research team genetically altered mice to make high levels of Yap protein but only in liver cells.

Those animals’ livers grew to be five times the size of a normal mouse liver and often were dotted with large tumors. "We were totally amazed," said Pan. "We think it might be the extra Yap in these cells contributing to their cancerous growth."

The study is detailed in the journal Cell.

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