Tags: breast | cancer | switch

‘On-Off’ Switch Found in Lethal Breast Cancer

Tuesday, 15 Jan 2013 10:46 AM


Scientists say they have discovered a molecular “on-off” switch that allows an aggressive form of breast cancer to grow and spread to other parts of the body.
The finding, by researchers with Weill Cornell Medical College, could point the way to new therapies that switch off the process and halt the progress of so-called “triple negative breast cancer.” The discovery could also lead to novel agents to treat the cancer once it has spread — or metastasized — to increase patients’ survival odds.
"Metastasis can be lethal, and our findings point to potential targeted treatments to stop the spread of this aggressive breast cancer," said lead researcher Vivek Mittal, M.D., an associate professor of cell and developmental biology and director of the Lehman Brothers Lung Cancer Laboratory at Weill Cornell Medical College.
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“Finding that there may be a way to shut down the spread of an aggressive breast cancer — which is the only way that triple negative breast cancer can be controlled and lives spared — is very promising."
Such treatments would be the first to treat cancer metastasis in patients whose tumors have already spread beyond the breast, said the researchers in a press release issued by Weill Cornell.
The research centered on genetic processes that promote the spread of tumors in cases of triple negative breast cancer. Specifically, Dr. Mittal’s team keyed in on the functions of a gene regulator — known as microRNA — that, when compromised, allow cancer to spread more readily.
Triple negative breast cancer is the most lethal of all breast cancer types because of its high recurrence rate and tendency to spread. It accounts for up to 25 percent of all breast tumors and is named "triple negative" because its tumor cells do not have two hormone receptors (estrogen and progesterone) or HER2/neu growth factor, which are targeted by conventional treatments.

Dr. Mittal said the new study’s findings suggest that drugs now being tested in lymphoma cancer cells may also help to restore the function of microRNA in triple negative breast cancer patient.

"It is exciting that there are now drugs that can turn off the silencing of these critical genes,” Dr. Mittal said. “They could very well work for this aggressive breast cancer.”

The study was funded, in part, by the National Cancer Institute.
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Scientists say they have discovered a molecular 'on-off' switch for an aggressive form of breast cancer.
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Tuesday, 15 Jan 2013 10:46 AM
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