In a surprise discovery, common lab molecule found to have anticancer properties

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at Chapel Hill, N.C.-based UNC School of Medicine discovered that a molecule commonly used to label DNA triggers a cellular process that is fatal to cancer cells.

The molecule, EdU, mimics thymine in DNA, replacing it and acting as a tracker, UNC Health said Aug. 23. It could be the basis for an effective brain cancer treatment, since it triggers a runaway DNA repair process in cells that are actively dividing. 

Most healthy cells in the brain are nondividing, while cancerous cells divide rapidly.

"We want to stress that this is a basic but important scientific discovery," said study senior author Aziz Sancar, MD, PhD. "The scientific community has much work ahead to figure out if EdU could actually become a weapon against cancer."

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