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Bioessays. 2008 Aug;30(8):719-27. doi: 10.1002/bies.20784.

Tumorigenesis and neurodegeneration: two sides of the same coin?

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Department of Pathology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Gray-Jackson 249, MGH, 55 Fruit St Boston, MA 02114-2696, USA.


Dysregulation of genes that control cell-cycle progression and DNA repair is a hallmark of tumorigenesis. It is becoming increasingly apparent, however, that these defects also contribute to degeneration of post-mitotic neurons under certain conditions. The gene for ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM) is a prototype for this dual mechanism of action, with loss-of-function mutations causing not only selective degeneration of cerebellar neurons but also increased susceptibility to breast cancer and hematologic malignancy. Increased dosage of amyloid precursor protein in Down syndrome (trisomy 21) predisposes to dementia of Alzheimer type and may also contribute to acute leukemia and transient myeloproliferative disorder. The gene parkin, loss-of-function mutations in which account for about half of cases of early-onset Parkinson disease, has been identified as a candidate tumor suppressor gene by several groups. Parkin is deleted or downregulated in several tumor types, and its re-expression sensitizes derivative cell lines to inhibitors of cell-cycle progression. The overlap of molecular pathways implicated in cancer and neurodegeneration challenges long-held notions about differentiated cellular states and may open the door to novel therapeutic approaches to both groups of disorders.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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