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BAF protein complexes may prevent cancer development

Researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine have discovered that BAF protein complexes may prevent the development of tumors in multiple kinds of human tissue.

The team’s results, which found mutations in the complex in about one-fifth of all human cancers, were published in a study in Nature Genetics on May 5. The study was co-authored by postdoctoral scholars Cigall Kadoch Ph.D. ’12 P.D. ’13, Diana Hargreaves and Courtney Hodges, former lab members Laura Elias and Lena Ho Ph.D. ’10, Professor of Pathology and of Developmental Biology Gerald Crabtree and Jeff Ranish, an assistant professor at the Institute of Systems Biology.

The researchers used data from their own experiments, as well as shared data from 44 previous studies, to determine that a mutation of even one of the subunits of the BAF complex could spur the development of cancer. In the future, the researchers hope to investigate how the mutations impact the ability of the protein complex to suppress the development of tumors.

“We certainly want to further our understanding of the mechanism behind these findings,” Hargreaves told Inside Stanford Medicine. “Do they promote cancer development by inhibiting the proper progression of the cell cycle? Or perhaps they affect how the complex is positioned on the DNA. We’d like to determine how to recapitulate some of these mutations experimentally to see what types of defects they introduce into the complex.”

The study was funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

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