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Scientists ID Gene Behind Cancer's Spread

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(CBS/AP) Scientists in England say they have identified the gene that is responsible for cancer's spread through the body - raising the possibility of a "one-size-fits-all" cure for the disease by developing a drug that switches off the gene.

Most deaths from cancer result from its gradual metastasis, or spreading, from the original cancer site to other tissues and organs. Halting that spread wouldn't eliminate a patient's primary cancer, but it would allow it to be treated with conventional therapies and surgery, "with no risk of the disease taking hold elsewhere," according to researchers.

The research was conducted at the University of East Anglia and published Tuesday in the journal Oncogene.

"The culprit gene - known as WWP2 - is an enzymic bonding agent found inside cancer cells. It attacks and breaks down a natural inhibitor in the body which normally prevents cancer cells spreading," the university said in a release detailing the findings. "The UEA team found that by blocking WWP2, levels of the natural inhibitor are boosted and the cancer cells remain dormant."

"The challenge now is to identify a potent drug that will get inside cancer cells and destroy the activity of the rogue gene," said lead author Andrew Chantry. "This is a difficult but not impossible task, made easier by the deeper understanding of the biological processes revealed in this study."

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