Scientists’ findings associate two genes to breast cancer survival in women

Emobileclinic Researchers Corner 
Scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research, London have discovered two genes that may lead to breast cancer survival in women. It was found that a pattern of gene activity among breast cancer cells with a distinct ability to escape from the glue that holds them together could be of help.

The finding published in the Journal Oncotarget, looked at breast cancer cells that were positive for the protein HER2 – the target for the drug Herceptin, which is found in around 20 per cent of tumours.

This new discovery funded by The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and Breast Cancer could be used to develop tests for aggressive breast cancers, or even to identify new targets for cancer treatment. A new image-based screening technique was developed in order to identify cancer cells that did not stick to the protein laminin – which helps build scaffolding around cells to glue them together. They found that these cells tended to have high activity in a gene called F12 and low activity in another called STC2.

When the researchers analysed the same genes among 1,964 breast cancers, they found that this pattern of activity was strongly linked to survival. Women whose tumours had high F12 activity and low STC2 activity had a 32 per cent chance of dying within 10 years, whereas those with low F12 activity and high STC2 activity had only a 10 per cent chance of dying. More research is now needed, to establish how these genes could interfere with the extracellular matrix and help cancer cells grow and spread.
Paul Huang remarks that survival rates for breast cancer are now much higher than they were a few decades ago, but the disease remains deadly once it has spread round the body. He noted that their study sheds light on how cancer cells unstick themselves from healthy tissue, and it could help pick out women at high risk of their cancer spreading and becoming fatal. It was further found that the activity of two genes which may help control how tightly cells are glued together is linked to breast cancer survival. If the results are confirmed in larger studies, it could give us a new way of assessing women’s survival chances in the clinic, and adjusting treatment accordingly.”

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In his view, Professor Paul Workman, said that they have seen major strides in the treatment of breast cancer, but once it begins to spread round the body it is still often fatal. This new study will assist in understanding some of the processes that control how breast cancers spread, and identifies a pattern of genetic activity that could be used to pick out women particularly at risk.

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