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Hope For Breast Cancer Patients

Hope For Breast Cancer Patients
Scientists have discovered a gene which drives a fast-growing, aggressive form of breast cancer.
January 12
07:45 2015

Scientists have discovered what triggers one of the most deadly types of breast cancer, raising hopes of new treatments for it.

They have pinpointed a gene that drives triple-negative breast cancer – an especially fast-growing and hard-to-treat form of the disease.

It accounts for up to one in five cases of breast cancer and is particularly likely to strike women when they are still in their 20s and 30s.

Breast cancer drugs from the gold-standard treatment tamoxifen to ‘wonder drug’ Herceptin are useless against it and it has a worse prognosis than other forms of the disease.

The breakthrough, spearheaded by researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge, brings hope of new treatments.

The study of breast cancers from almost 3,000 women revealed a gene called BCL11A to be particularly active in triple-negative tumours.

Women with the gene had cancer that was more advanced.

And extra copies of the gene cut a woman’s survival chances, the journal Nature Communications reports.

Experiments on mice confirmed the gene’s importance.

For instance, animals destined to develop breast cancer remained free of the disease when the gene was inactivated.

And ‘turning down’ the gene in cells made them less cancerous.

Triple-negative breast cancer tends to be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer.

Studies have shown it is more likely to spread beyond the breast and more likely to recur after treatment.

These risks appear to be greatest in the first few years after treatment.

Researcher Professor Carlos Caldas said: ‘This exciting result identifies a novel breast cancer gene in some of the more difficult-to-treat cases.’

Dr Emma Smith, of 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.

‘This study is a promising step forward.

‘But these results are from cells grown in the lab and studies in mice, so they’re still at an early stage.

‘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.

‘Triple-negative breast cancer can be challenging to treat, so research into the biology of the disease is vital to help scientists come up with new treatments.’

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