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The group’s own fundraising has yielded only a few million dollars, according to its organizers. It has enlisted Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former Liberian president; Elaine Chao, the transportation secretary for the United States; and Paul Polman, chief executive of Unilever, among others, in an attempt to catapult the issue onto global development wish lists. They contend that an investment in improving sight would pay off. The World Health Organization has estimated the problem costs the global economy more than 0 billion annually in lost productivity.

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Yet, contrary to all expectations, this does not trigger cell death in prostate cancer tumors. So the scientists asked: how do these cancers protect their own integrity, and how can we disrupt that defense mechanism?

In order to answer this question, the researchers worked with mice that had been genetically engineered to develop prostate cancer — specifically, tumors presenting a pair of genetic mutations found in almost half of all individuals with treatment-resistant prostate cancer.

These mutations promote the overexpression of the MYC oncogene (which promotes the growth of cancer) and inhibit the expression of the gene PTEN (which has been linked to tumor suppression).

But, to the team's surprise, prostate cancers presenting these mutations also had lower levels of protein synthesis — unlike less aggressive types of cancer, which presented only one mutation.

"I spent 6 months trying to understand if this was actually occurring, because it's not at all what we expected," confesses study co-author Crystal Conn.

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