Harvard Research Group Finds Relationship Between Genetic Transformations and Cancer

A team of researchers at Harvard's Sidney Farber Cancer Institute has found a definite relation between genetic changes in cells and cancer. Geoffrey M. Cooper, associate professor of pathology and director of the study, said yesterday.

The Harvard group's research constitutes an important step in efforts to control cancer, Dr. Baruj Benacerraf, chairman of the Medical School's pathology department, said yesterday.

No Cure Yet

But Cooper said his results will not be applicable to the treatment of cancer for many years. "Right now we're just finding out how cancer works," he added.

Gerard Goubin, one of Cooper's research assistants, said yesterday that it is too early to conclude that the group's research will definitely lead to progress in combatting cancer, adding that medical treatment will be possible only if the defective genetic material is discovered near the cell's surface.


"It's just a matter of chance," he said, adding that the research team's discoveries could not be applied to treatment for at least two years.

Cooper and his associates, working over the past five years, linked changes in genetic material to malignancy by injecting the DNA of cancerous cells into healthy cells, causing genetic changes in the normal cells.

The researchers found that the game that produces lung cancer is different from the gene that causes leukemia, showing that no one type of gene causes all kinds of cancer, Goubin said.

The researchers also discovered that more than one kind of gene can produce a single type of cancer, he added, noting that leukemia, lung cancer and bladder cancer on be caused by at least two genes.

Scientists have not discovered what makes a gene become cancer-causing, Goubin said, adding that doctors at the institute are now trying to answer that question.

Composition of Genes

The researchers have started new experiments in which they are examining cancer-causing genes to find out what aspect of their composition produces malignancy.

Though Cooper and his assistants know that genes in both human and animal cells can become cancer-causing, the scientists have obtained samples of such transformed genes only in animal cells and are still trying to isolate them in human cells, Goubin said.

Researchers at MIT and at Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory on Long Island have reached the same results in independent experiments, Benacerraf said, adding that Cooper's conclusions have gained wide-spread acceptance among experts in the field of cancer research.