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Media Advisory

Conference on "aneuploidy" cancer theory

29 January 2008

ATTENTION: Medical and science reporters

Contact: Robert Sanders, Media Relations
(510) 643-6998 rsanders@berkeley.edu

The second international "Conference on Aneuploidy and Cancer," a four-day meeting that begins this Thursday and is being sponsored by University of California, Berkeley, molecular biologist Peter Duesberg to explore the increasingly popular but controversial "aneuploidy" theory of cancer.

The prevailing oncogene theory ascribes cancer to a handful of single-gene mutations that sends cells into uncontrolled growth. The aneuploidy theory, on the other hand, hypothesizes that cancer arises from a cell with an abnormal number of chromosomes, a condition known as aneuploidy. The duplicated chromosomes contain extra copies of hundreds or thousands of genes. Certain combinations of aneuploid chromosomes throw the cellular machinery into chaos and thus lead to cancerous growth.

The opening address and lecture will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 31; sessions will run from 8:30 a.m. - 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 1 and 2, and from 8:45 a.m. - noon on Sunday, Feb 3.

Waterfront Plaza Hotel, 10 Washington St., Oakland, Calif.

Among the international scientists attending will be:

  • Peter Duesberg, UC Berkeley professor of molecular and cell biology and conference president
  • Walter Hittelman, professor and chief of cellular oncology, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas
  • Susan Gollin and William S. Saunders, associate professors, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute
  • Eytan Domany, professor of the physics of complex systems, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
  • Donald Cleveland, professor, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, UC San Diego
  • W. Wayt Gibbs, Scientific American contributing editor and executive editor at Intellectual Ventures, Bellevue, Wash.

    Scientists have known since the early part of the last century that cancer cells have abnormal numbers of chromosomes, a condition called aneuploidy. But most researchers have dismissed this phenomenon as a byproduct of cancer, not the cause. With the rise in the 1970s of the oncogene theory, the idea that aneuploidy was a cause of cancer was left in the dust.

    Duesberg, however, revived the theory in 1997 and held the first conference on aneuploidy and cancer in Oakland in 2004. This year's conference focuses not only on the basic cell biology of aneuploidy and cancer, but on diagnostic techniques and experimental treatments based on the theory. Various doctors around the world even now use aneuploidy to diagnose prostate, kidney, stomach and colorectal cancers, among others. Some also are pursuing an implication of the theory: that ramping up aneuploidy in a cancerous tumor can kill it rather than make it worse.