Discover magazine names cancer gene finding a top story of year

A special January/February 2011 edition of Discover magazine has included landmark cancer research from Florida State University’s Department of Biological Science in its roundup of 2010’s Top 100 science and technology stories. In fact, this research story is ranked No. 18, and it’s no wonder.

Led by Florida State postdoctoral fellow Yoichiro Tamori and Associate Professor Wu-Min Deng in collaboration with scientists in Britain, the study was the first to identify a life-or-death “cell competition” process within mammalian tissue that suppresses cancer by causing cancerous cells to, in effect, kill themselves.

Central to the scientists’ discovery was their identification of a gene they aptly named “Mahjong” after the Chinese game of skill and luck. They found that “Mahjong” acts to determine the winners of cell competition through its close relationship with another powerful protein player.

Published in the journal PLoS Biology, the findings shed light on the critical interactions between cancerous cells and surrounding tissue and confirm that those interactions occur not only in fruit fly models but also in mammalian cell cultures. A better understanding of the ways that inherited or acquired mutations in key proteins lead to cell competition should help foster new therapies that increase the odds of victory for normal cells.

Discover editors added the research to their distinguished list last July after a Florida State University news release described the groundbreaking work.