UC Irvine News Brief: Pharmacology chair finds circadian rhythms-cancer link

Paolo Sassone-Corsi, Donald Bren Professor and chair of pharmacology, has already made a number of key discoveries about circadian rhythms, which control humans’ 24-hour biological cycle. Now he has found a link between cancer and a disruption of these rhythms. In the online version of Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, Sassone-Corsi and his colleagues in the INSERM-UCI unit on campus report that a protein called MLL1 helps regulate circadian rhythms. What’s interesting about this, he says, is that genetic aberrations of MLL1 account for about 10 percent of acute leukemia in adults and 70 percent of infant leukemia. The finding suggests that certain cancers, like leukemia, may be governed by humans’ internal body clock and susceptible to new pharmaceutical treatments.