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Research Notes

Epidemiologists often investigate connections between cancers and chemicals in the environment. But molecular biologists now are starting to describe the molecular mechanisms for how such compounds might promote cancerous growth. A recent study is among the first to show how carcinogens trigger cancer-causing genetic events (A. Bardelli et al., "Carcinogen-specific induction of genetic instability," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Early Edition, April 10, 2001, www.pnas.org/cgi/

Eugene Russo
Epidemiologists often investigate connections between cancers and chemicals in the environment. But molecular biologists now are starting to describe the molecular mechanisms for how such compounds might promote cancerous growth. A recent study is among the first to show how carcinogens trigger cancer-causing genetic events (A. Bardelli et al., "Carcinogen-specific induction of genetic instability," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Early Edition, April 10, 2001, <www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/081082898v1). Johns Hopkins University cancer researchers treated genetically stable human cells with two carcinogens found in food: PhiP (2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo [4,5-b] pyrdine) and MNNG (methylating agent methyl-N'-nitrosoguanine). PhiP is found typically in well-cooked beef and chicken; MNNG is produced in the colon during food metabolism. The researchers found that only cells that had acquired a mutation in a mismatch repair gene survived MNNG exposure, but the survivors were not able to efficiently repair DNA replication mistakes--a defect that can lead to cancer....

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