A team of researchers from the Center for RNA Biology at University of Rochester has identified a new way to slow down the rapid growth of cancer cells.

Their new method, described in a paper published in the journal Science, involves a certain protein called Tudor-SN and the gene-editing technology CRISPR-Cas9.

"We know that Tudor-SN is more abundant in cancer cells than healthy cells, and our study suggests that targeting this protein could inhibit fast-growing cancer cells," said Reyad A. Elbarbary, Ph.D., a research assistant professor in the Center for RNA Biology and the department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and lead author of the study, in a press release.

Tudor-SN is a protein associated with the "preparatory" phase of cell cycle, or the series of events that culminate in orderly cell growth and division. Cancer, despite being considered as an extremely complex disease, is basically the abnormal and uncontrollable growth of cells. Using CRISPR-Cas9, the researchers eliminated Tudor-SN from the cells. Interestingly, the cells took a longer time in its preparatory phase (the period when the cells get ready to divide).

On a closer look, the researchers found out how Tudor-SN affects the cell cycle. They discovered that Tudor-SN is capable of controlling microRNAs, or the molecules that fine tune the expression of thousands of human genes. The researchers observed that the removal of Tudor-SN from the cell caused the levels of dozens of microRNAs to go up. Increasing the presence of microRNAs turned off the genes that encourage cell growth. As a result, the cells move more slowly from the preparatory phase to the cell division phase.

The researchers noted that their study was conducted in kidney and cervical cancer cells in the laboratory. However, fast-growing cells apply to all types of cancer. These findings could pave way to a better treatment for cancer.

At present, there are existing compounds that can block Tudor-SN. However, more research regarding Tudor-SN and other molecules and proteins taking part in cancer development is needed to develop a more targeted treatment for different types of cancer.