Role of the P53 Tumor Suppressor in Cancer Development

p53 is a special type of protein. Linked directly to chromosome 17, p53 is known as a tumor suppressor. Also known as the “guardian of the cell”, p53 controls a cell’s cycle of life. It protects it from being infiltrated by mutated cells that can alter its development causing it to aid in tumor growth. It’s the job of the p53 tumor suppressor protein to keep a cell on track and prevent any abnormal changes. The number 53 refers to the protein’s mass, although some tests indicate the p53’s mass is only in the mid 40’s. The weight difference is said to occur because certain amino acids make it heavier and causes it to move slower throughout the body. p53 molecules live only for short periods of time and are present within all cells. If the reproductive aspect of the p53 protein malfunctions and the levels are reduced within a cell, there is a possibility that the cell may mutate into a tumor or other abnormal growth.

It is estimated that almost half of all reported cases of cancer in the United States can be attributed to a malfunction of p53 protein. As the numbers dwindle within the cell, all protection against mutated cells is lost, leaving the cell vulnerable to predators that can overtake it and use it as a host cell.

One possible concept as to how this happens is when the levels of p53 decreases, amino acids can begin to change, altering the overall chemical makeup of the cell. This allows another cell to come in and bind with the new chemical structure, essentially changing the cell into something completely different and possibly abnormal.

The more abnormal cells are created the bigger the risk of a tumor forming or cancer cells spreading through the body. When the mutations in the cell begin to affect the p53 protein, it becomes helpless in preventing abnormal cells from attaching themselves to the DNA that is present. As the cells change and the signals sent between the p53 and cell’s working components begin to be misinterpreted, invaders rush in and take over the cell. An invading cell can replicate itself within a host cell. Once this occurs, the invader can produce at will without the interference of the p53 tumor suppressor protein.

If the p53 protein remains intact, cancer and other abnormal cells can infiltrate the cell. Repeated bacterial and viral infections can affect the stability of p53 protein. Diagnosing and treating infections quickly can reduce the impact on p53 protein and how it protects the cells.