Page URL: https://www.bionews.org.uk/page_94880

Gene linked to aggressive breast cancers

19 January 2015
Appeared in BioNews 786

UK researchers have identified a gene that is active in a difficult-to-treat form of breast cancer, raising the possibility of developing targeted treatments.

The researchers found that one gene - BCL11A - was particularly active in around eight out of ten patients with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) and was associated with a more advanced grade of tumour.

'BCL11A stood out because it is so active in many triple-negative cancers: it has all the hallmarks of a novel breast cancer gene,' said study author Dr Pentao Liu, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge.

In triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), cells lack three receptors that respond to hormone therapies, including herceptin and tamoxifen. Consequently, prognosis is significantly worse than for other forms of the disease.

Using data from around 3,000 breast cancer patients, the team looked specifically at genes involved in haematopoiesis - the process by which blood components develop from stem cells. This is because such genes have previously been found to have key roles in both breast tissue development and breast cancer.

The team, reporting in Nature Communications, showed that adding an active human BCL11A gene to human or mouse breast cells drove the development of tumours. Conversely, when they inhibited BCL11A activity in three samples of human TNBC, the cells lost some of their cancerous characteristics and formed smaller tumours when transplanted into mice.

Additionally, using mouse models, the researchers also found that BCL11A has important roles in tumour formation and progression and essential roles in the normal development of the breast tissue.

Dr Emma Smith, senior science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: 'Figuring out the genes that play a role in triple negative breast cancer could lead to new ways to tackle the disease - so this study is a promising step forward.'

'The next steps will be finding out if the gene plays the same role in causing breast cancer in women, and whether drugs can be developed to target the faulty molecules.'

SOURCES & REFERENCES
RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE
21 May 2018 - by Christie Whitehouse 
A new study indicates that an important drug used to treat breast cancer is just as effective when the course of treatment is shortened by half.
28 September 2015 - by Neil Stoker 
Researchers have identified genetic differences in breast cancers that relapse and those that do not, suggesting that the finding could be used to help doctors identify patients most at risk of their cancer returning...
13 April 2015 - by Hannah Somers 
A new wide-ranging test that looks at multiple sites in the DNA code could help predict a woman's risk of developing breast cancer...
9 February 2015 - by Dr Rachael Panizzo 
An international research collaboration analysing the DNA of 100,000 women has identified two new genetic variants that are associated with an increased risk of the most common form of breast cancer...
27 October 2014 - by Arit Udoh 
Latin American women are less likely to have breast cancer because of an inherited genetic trait, a study suggests...
22 September 2014 - by Jessica Ware 
The number of women in the UK being referred to breast cancer clinics doubled shortly after actress Angelina Jolie revealed she had a risk-reducing double mastectomy, a study has found....
15 September 2014 - by Dr Rachel Montgomery 
A leading scientist involved in the identification of the BRCA1 gene mutation has recommended that genetic screening of the BRCA genes should be routinely offered to all women aged 30 years or over....
11 August 2014 - by Dr Kimberley Bryon-Dodd 
A new study suggests that mutations in a gene called PALB2 are just behind BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations as a leading genetic risk factor for breast cancer...
7 July 2014 - by Dr Nicola Davis 
The Progress Educational Trust's enlightening series of events on breast cancer came to a close on Thursday with 'Breast cancer risk: Facts, fiction and the future'....
HAVE YOUR SAY
Log in to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.