‘Junk’ DNA link to cancer

A “PSEUDOGENE” previously thought to have no function may play a crucial role in many cancers, new research suggests.

Scientists believe that targeting the pseudogene with drugs that alter its effect could lead to new treatments.

Pseudogenes are short stretches of DNA that look like genes but differ in that they do not provide the coded instructions for making proteins.

Until recently, they were lumped together with other non-protein-making parts of the genetic code dismissed as “junk”.

Scientists are now learning that areas of DNA once thought to have no function have an influence on the activity of genes.


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The cancer-linked pseudogene has a DNA sequence similar to the gene for PTEN, a protein linked to many cancers, including those affecting the brain, prostate, womb, lung and breast.

The research is reported today in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.