TP53 is a recognised tumour suppressor gene, as it prevents cancer cells from multiplying in the body by stopping the division of cells or triggering the destruction of them.
The team, led by Professor Noel Lowndes at the Centre for Chromosome Biology at the National University of Ireland Galway, has found TP53 directly regulates the repair of broken DNA.
This is important, because broken DNA can result in cell death or loss of genetic information in those cells that survive the break.
In the research, published in the journal Open Biology, the scientists discovered that the gene influences the regulation of the two pathways that can lead to the repair of the DNA.
"Thus, loss of TP53 during cancer development will drive the evolution of cancer cells towards ever more aggressive cancer types," said Professor Lowndes.
The team hopes that the information they have discovered could in the future be used in the development of new methods of diagnosing and treating a range of different cancers.