Global Cancer News

Time matters: Does our biological clock keep cancer at bay?

Anne Li

Our body has an internal biological or “circadian” clock, which cycles daily and is synchronized with solar time. New research done in mice suggests that it can help suppress cancer. The study, publishing 7 December in the open access journal PLOS Biology by Dr Angela Relógio from the Charité-Medical University of Berlin, Germany and colleagues, hypothesised that given the range of molecular time-dependent processes that it regulates, including metabolism, DNA repair and the cell cycle, the circadian clock has the potential to act as a tumour suppressor. The circadian clock runs in sync with environmental light-dark cycles and helps to orchestrate metabolic and behavioural patterns such as daily cycles of rest and activity. Many diseases including cancer can disrupt the clock, causing it to run amok. When cells in our body multiply, however, they follow a different schedule known as the cell cycle, in which two daughter cells are produced by cell division at the end of the cycle. Many cancers involve a dysfunctional or hyperactive cell cycle, which enables the tumor cells to multiply uncontrollably.

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