Cell Cycle Checkpoints

The tenth annual Forbeck Forum was held on October 27-29 at Moss Creek with about a dozen invited participants from around the world.  The subject of this year's meeting was Cell Cycle Checkpoints and Cancer.  Our understanding of the biology of the cell cycle has progressed rapidly in the last five years to a point where it is relevant to consider how this understanding can be used in cancer therapy.

Checkpoints plan an important role both in the origin of cancer and in its potential treatment.  Checkpoints constitute the "nerve center" of the cell cycle, receiving and sending messages to various cellular processes so that growth and repair can be integrated.  For example, p53, the most commonly altered gene in cancer cells, coordinates signals from outside the cell and signals from the cell's information center, the chromosomes.  If the chromosomes are damaged when another signal says to divide, the p53 gene, either halts the cell's progression to allow repair of the damage or, if the damage is too great, sends a signal for the cell to commit suicide.  Dead cells are better than proliferating damaged cells.  By eliminating the p53 gene, cancer cells evade this surveillance, producing many damaged cells that become the Frankensteins that we know as cancer.