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GEN’s editorial staff interviews life science academic and biotech industry leaders on important research, technology, and trends. These podcasts will keep you informed with all the important details you need.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital scientists have discovered a new mechanism cells use to maximize production of a key protein following DNA damage and demonstrated the potential of small molecules to regulate the process and protect healthy tissue. The researchers identified a novel structure in cells that serves as a control switch in the body's system for eliminating damaged cells and also offers new therapeutic potential.

The findings provide fresh insight into the machinery at work as cells ramp up production of p53 protein following DNA damage. The p53 protein plays a critical role in how cells respond to the stress that damages DNA. The gene that carries instructions for making the p53 protein is the most commonly mutated gene in human cancers.

The research, published in the September 13 online edition of Genes & Development, could lay the foundation for a new approach to protecting healthy tissue using small molecules to reduce p53 protein levels in cells following damage caused by a wide range of factors including radiation and chemotherapy used to treat cancer or accidental exposure to dangerous chemicals or radiation, notes Dr. Michael Kastan, who discusses his team’s findings and its medical implications during this week’s podcast.

Michael B. Kastan, M.D., Ph.D., is the director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. Under his leadership, St. Jude became the first and only pediatric cancer center to be designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute. He is a pediatric oncologist who also serves as the director of the Molecular Therapeutics Division at St. Jude and member of the hospital’s Oncology department. Kastan earned both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Washington University School of Medicine and came to St. Jude from Johns Hopkins, where he had been Professor of Oncology and Pediatrics. His research concentrates on DNA damage and repair, tumor suppressor genes, and causes of cancer related to genetic disposition and environmental contributions. He has received numerous honors for his work, including election to the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine and was the recipient of the 47th annual AACR-G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award for his outstanding contributions to basic cancer research. Kastan’s research has been published in prestigious journals such as Cell, Science and Nature. He has served as Chairman of the Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Cancer Institute and on the Board of Directors of the American Association for Cancer Research.

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