2 studies find edited CRISPR cells may cause cancer

Cancer researchers are taking notice of a pair of studies published Monday in Nature Medicine that found editing a cell’s genomes with CRISPR-Cas9 has the potential to seed cancer and may eventually generate the disease, STAT reports.

Sam Kulkarni, CEO of CRISPR Therapeutics said the results are “plausible” in a conversation with STAT. “It’s something we need to pay attention to, especially as CRISPR expands to more diseases. We need to do the work and make sure edited cells returned to patients don’t become cancerous,” he said in the article.

According to the report, standard CRISPR-Cas9 works by cutting both strands of the DNA double helix, this causes a cell to activate a biochemical response via a gene called p53. The reaction can ultimately lead to a dysfunctional p53, which is responsible for nearly half of ovarian cancers; 43 percent of colorectal cancers; 38 percent of lung cancers; and a host of other forms of the disease.

According to STAT, experts are taking the findings seriously, but reported this may only affect one area of the various genome-editing pathways used by CRISPR.

Read the entire STAT story below: