Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms
Tumor Suppressor Gene
A tumor suppressor gene directs the production of a protein that is part of the system that regulates cell division. The tumor suppressor protein plays a role in keeping cell division in check. When mutated, a tumor suppressor gene is unable to do its job, and as a result uncontrolled cell growth may occur. This may contribute to the development of a cancer.
Within our genome is a class of genes called tumor suppressor genes. These genes make proteins that act like brakes within the cell, and when they're turned on they actually prevent the cell from dividing. However, if a tumor suppressor gene is lost or mutated in a very specific way so that it loses its activity, the cell can then start to divide uncontrollably, and this contributes to the development of cancer. So the inactivation of tumor suppressor genes is one type of genetic alteration that contributes to tumor genesis. "Tumor genesis" is the technical term for the development of cancer.
Name: Daphne W. Bell, Ph.D.
Occupation: Investigator, Cancer Genetics Branch; Head, Reproductive Cancer Genetics Section
Biography: Dr. Bell's laboratory aims to understand genetic alterations that lead to clinically aggressive subtypes of endometrial cancer, to determine whether there is a heritable basis for familial endometrial cancer and to uncover genetic risk factors that promote the development of endometrial cancer at younger ages. Endometrial cancer is the most common gynecological malignancy in the United States. Most patients who present with Type 1 tumors have a good prognosis. Approximately 15% are diagnosed with Type 2 serous or clear cell tumors that are clinically aggressive. These patients have a five-year survival rate of less than 40%.