Wednesday March 20, 2019

Researchers Identify Key Gene Behind Breast Cancer

If further tests confirmed that CBX2 was an "oncogene", it could be a potential therapeutic drug target for aggressive types of breast cancer

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Cancer
Cancer Ribbon. Pixabay

Australian researchers have tracked an elusive cancer-promoting gene that appears to be behind aggressive breast cancers, paving the way for crucial therapeutic drug treatment for the deadly disease.

Researchers from the University of Queensland, together with Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the US, developed a statistical approach “to reveal many previously hard-to-find genes that contribute to cancer”, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Even if a group of people all have the same type or even subtype of cancer, the molecular make-up of that cancer is different from person to person because the activity of genes varies between people,” said Jess Mar, Associate Professor at the varsity.

In the study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, the team used a method to “zoom in” on genetic information from cancer patients and identify genes with two distinct “bumps” of data — low activity in one group of patients but high activity in another.

Analysing breast cancer data from a major cancer genome patient database, the researchers identified five genes that were “over-active” in a subset of breast cancer patients and followed up on the most promising target, known as CBX2.

cancer
Key gene behind breast cancer identified. Pixabay

“Previous studies have shown that most healthy female tissue has low levels of CBX2 activity, while an aggressive subtype of breast cancer has been shown to have high levels of CBX2 activity,” Mar said.

“This suggested a possible link between CBX2 activity and breast cancer, but the nature of that link hadn’t been investigated,” she said.

“So we switched off the gene in a human breast cancer cell line and this slowed down the growth of those cancer cells, suggesting that CBX2 might promote tumour growth.”

Also Read- Vitamin D Can Help to Control Asthma, Says Study

If further tests confirmed that CBX2 was an “oncogene”, it could be a potential therapeutic drug target for aggressive types of breast cancer, Mar said.

“Identifying ‘hidden’ oncogenes that are unique to smaller groups of cancer patients will open up new therapeutic avenues and move us closer to personalized medicine,” she said. (IANS)

Next Story

Common Diabetes Drug May Offer Treatment For Breast Cancer, Says Study

However, neither of the drugs were originally designed to treat cancer

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Cancer
Cancer Ribbon. Pixabay
Repurposing a common diabetes drug as well as another used for treating a group of inherited and acquired disorders may also help in the fight against resistant breast cancers that currently have no targeted therapy, finds a study.
The study, led by the University of Chicago, showed that the two existing drugs named metformin and haemin suppress tumour growth in mice, Xinhua reported.
“This is the first joint use of these two drugs. We think we have elucidated a new mechanism, something basic and fundamental, and found ways to use it,” said Marsha Rosner, Professor at the varsity.
The researchers found that the primary anti-cancer target for haemin is a transcription factor known as BACH1 (BTB and CNC homology1). This protein is often highly expressed in triple negative breast cancers and is required for metastasis.
BACH1 targets mitochondrial metabolism and can suppress a key source of cellular energy. When BACH1 is high, this energy source is shut down, the report said.
However, when cancer cells were treated with haemin, BACH1 was reduced, causing BACH1-depleted cancer cells to change metabolic pathways. This caused cancers that are vulnerable to metformin to suppress mitochondrial respiration.
Diabetes
Representational image. Pixabay
“We found that this novel combination, haemin plus metformin, can suppress tumour growth, and we validated this in mouse tumour models,” explained Jiyoung Lee from the varsity.
The findings can extend beyond breast cancer.
BACH1 expression is enriched not only in triple negative breast cancers, but is also seen in many other cancers including lung, kidney, uterus, prostate and acute myeloid leukemia, the researchers noted.
However, neither of the drugs were originally designed to treat cancer.
Metformin, discovered in 1922 and used clinically since 1957, was developed to treat Type-2 diabetes. It decreases glucose production by the liver and increases insulin sensitivity.
Haemin, marketed as panhematin, was first crystallised from blood in 1853. It is now used to treat defects of haemin synthesis. These defects can cause porphyrias, a group of inherited and acquired disorders. (IANS)