Scientists open up a new way to fight cancer through the MYC gene

  • A team of international researchers has identified the specific processes by which the MYC oncogene promotes this disease and, this way, demonstrated that this gene can attack specific weaknesses in tumor cells.
NO121 - Pujana Bicara

An international study that counted on the participation of the IDIBELL and ICO researcher Miquel Àngel Pujana, which has been published in the scientific magazine Cancer Research, opens a new way for cancer treatment, especially for those caused by a dysregulated activity of the MYC gene. This gene is overactivated in a high percentage of tumors and so promotes the development and progression of cancer. In fact, it is considered an oncogene and there are still no therapies directed against its activity.

How does this gene promote disease?

Since directly attacking MYC is very complicated, the research team in this study looked for another strategy. They identified proteins that are necessary for MYC to promote tumor development. To do this, they used a genetic tool called CRISPR to find critical components for MYC’s actions in breast cancer and discovered that a protein called R-Loops, that can cause changes in MYC activity, and a protein called Topoisomerase 1 (TOP1), which regulates R-Loops.

So, when they deactivated TOP1 in cancer cells, they observed that cells lost their ability to grow and divide and, therefore, they had found a specific weakness. This process has been verified in animal tumor models and the results have shown its effectiveness. For Dr Pujana, “this study opens up a new opportunity for targeted treatment against a high proportion of tumours”.



The Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) is a biomedical research center created in 2004. It is participated by the Bellvitge University Hospital and the Viladecans Hospital of the Catalan Institute of Health, the Catalan Institute of Oncology, the University of Barcelona and the City Council of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat.

IDIBELL is a member of the Campus of International Excellence of the University of Barcelona HUBc and is part of the CERCA institution of the Generalitat de Catalunya. In 2009 it became one of the first five Spanish research centers accredited as a health research institute by the Carlos III Health Institute. In addition, it is part of the “HR Excellence in Research” program of the European Union and is a member of EATRIS and REGIC. Since 2018, IDIBELL has been an Accredited Center of the AECC Scientific Foundation (FCAECC).

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