How does cellular senescence affect cancer?

Nezaket Türkel, PhD

Nezaket Türkel, PhD

Molecular Oncology Researcher and Genetic Engineer

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We are looking in detail at cellular senescence, an important factor between cancer and aging.

I have already mentioned the link between DNA damage and cancer/aging, and in summary, I highlighted that aging, like cancer, triggers DNA damage and that exposure to various stressors throughout our lives, both from within our body (such as free radicals) and from the environment (such as UV radiation and certain foods), can cause oxidative stress, which can lead to genomic instability and ultimately damage to our DNA.


Intertwined processes

This week I will focus on cellular senescence, another important factor in the link between cancer and aging. This process is usually triggered by oxidative stress, shortening of telomeres (the protective caps on our chromosomes) or activation of certain genes, resulting in cells stopping dividing. Two genes in particular that control the cell cycle play an important role in this process: TP53 (tumor protein 53) and CDKN2A (cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 2A).


TP53 (p53): Cellular Guardian and Anti-Cancer

The TP53 gene-encoded protein is responsible for sensing and responding to DNA damage in cells. In its simplest form, if serious DNA damage is detected in the cell before division, TP53 provides the necessary time to repair the damaged DNA. However, if the damage cannot be repaired, TP53 stops the cell cycle and initiates programmed cell death (apoptosis). This mechanism helps to control abnormal cells that could potentially become cancerous. We can therefore think of TP53 as a kind of “cellular guardian”. We can also say that it provides a defense mechanism against cancer development.

However, mutations (permanent changes in the inheritance sequence of a living being) or losses in the TP53 gene, which can also be triggered by cellular senescence processes, can lead to the inability of cells to respond effectively to damage and uncontrolled cell proliferation. As a result, “mutation accumulation” can occur in uncontrolled cells. Cells can therefore progress towards cancer.

CDKN2A: Cell Cycle Brake and Cancer Preventer

The protein encoded by the CDKN2A gene controls cell division by regulating the cell cycle. If a cell is prone to abnormally rapid division, CDKN2A steps in and pauses the cell cycle, preventing uncontrolled division. Mutations in this gene can result in unlimited cell division, one of the most important characteristics of cancer.

As a result, thanks to the cooperation of these two important proteins, cells are able to proliferate in a controlled and orderly manner. In this way, abnormal cell division and cancer development are prevented by protecting the health of the organism. However, mutations in the genes encoding these proteins can predispose to cancer development. As the organism ages, the likelihood of mutations in these genes increases and the risk of cancer increases.

In my next article, I will talk about the relationship of TP53, the cellular guardian, with another critical signaling pathway in the cell and what can be done for cellular cleansing.





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The information and statements on our website are not intended to guide individuals towards medical diagnosis and treatment. Please consult with your doctor for medical diagnostic and treatment procedures. The contents are shared for informational purposes only, derived from scientific studies prepared by EMC Medya Yayıncılık Ticaret Ltd. Şti.’s researchers, consultants, and authors/scientists, as well as compilations from publicly available publications. Our texts do not contain health statements related to medical diagnosis or treatment

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