SYDNEY - Researchers in Brisbane, Australia, have identified and partially cloned two genes from the mucin family of genes which they strongly believe play a key role in the development of colon cancer.

Scientists at the obstetrics and gynecology department at the University of Queensland, in Brisbane, have found the proteins expressed from the two genes to be absent in colon cancer cells. They also believe the genes are important regulators of normal cell growth.

Led by Michael McGuckin, the scientists now intend to further investigate the role of the mucin genes by knocking out the genes in normal cells.

McGuckin said other members of the mucin family, which contains genes involved in the transmission of signals on the surface of cells, are implicated in changes in the ability of cancer cells to adhere to the main tumor - changes that permit the cells to break away from the primary tumor and set up in secondary locations.

McGuckin also is developing a kit to gauge the progress of colorectal cancer in patients - using mucin genes as the marker - for Medical Innovations Ltd. - Mark Lawson