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Breast Cancer

Hope For Treating A Deadly Breast-Cancer Gene

Researchers have discovered that a gene, previously not linked to breast cancer, plays a central role in the growth of triple negative breast cancer.

Targeting that gene, the research indicates, could lead to a new approach for treating that form of the disease.  Triple negative breast cancer, which accounts for 20 percent of all breast cancer cases, often has few treatment options.

Senior author Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College, investigated whether the gene was a factor in the ability of cancer to thrive within tumors. Her previous research had shown that the gene was a critical factor in immune and metabolic function.

Using cells taken from patients' tumors and transplanted into mice, Glimcher's team found that the gene, XBP1, is especially active in triple negative breast cancer, particularly in the progression of malignant cells and their resurgence after treatment.

"Patients with the triple negative form of breast cancer are those who most desperately need new approaches to treat their disease," Glimcher said in a statement. "This pathway was activated in about two-thirds of patients with this type of breast cancer. Now that we better understand how this gene helps tumors proliferate and then return after a patient's initial treatment, we believe we can develop morre effective therapies to shrink their growth and delay relapse."

The team also found that when they blocked the activity of the gene, XBP1, in laboratory cultures and mouse models, the chemotherapy drugs doxorubicin or paclitaxel showed increased effectiveness.

"Obviously we need to know now whether what our group saw in models is what we'll see in patients," said coauthor Dr. Jenny Chang, professor of medicine at Weill Cornell and director of the Houston Methodist Cancer Center. "We are very excited about the prospect of moving this research forward as soon as possible for the benefit of patients."

The findings were published in the journal Nature

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