Absence of Adrenal Gene Prkar1a Can Cause Cancer


According to a study conducted by National Institutes of Health and others, a new gene, Prkar1a, is responsible for cell death which encourages growth in the adrenal glands and causes a rare disorder, Carney complex.

When the Prkar1a gene is deactivated, the study finds, the aging process for the adrenal gland is put on hold. These adrenal glands are positioned above the kidneys, one on each side. This growth can lead to tumors. The study will help lead researchers to finding ways of limiting cancerous growths.


Carney complex is a rare adrenal gland disorder where many patients develop Cushing’s syndrome. Cushing’s syndrome is a combination of weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other symptoms resulting from the cortisol overproduction produced by the adrenal glands. Those with Carney complex also tend to develop non-cancerous tumors in the heart and benign and cancerous tumors in the adrenal system.

An author of the study, Dr. Stratakis, acting director of the Division of Intramural Research of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, has said that the gene Prkar1a could be responsible for other types of tumors in addition to the adrenal gland tumors. The study showed that mice also developed bone tumors. The doctor further stated that these findings lend to a greater understanding of how stem cell growth, left unchecked, can lead to tumor development in various organs.

Dr. Stratakis says, “Our hope is that future studies of the gene and its functions will lead to a greater understanding of how certain types of cancer develop and ways to limit their growth.”

“The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.” For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.


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