R&D News: MSU researchers find pathway that affects development of breast cancer
By studying which genes are expressed - or turned on - in breast cancer, research led by MSU's Eran Andrechek uncovered a role for several members of the E2F family of genes, which control cell division and growth.
Specifically, Mr Andrechek's team found the activation of the specific gene E2F2 was associated with a higher probability of breast cancer relapse in humans. The research team, using rodent models, also found that removing the E2F2 gene significantly decreased the likelihood of a tumor.
Mr Andrechek, an assistant professor in the MSU department of physiology and lead author of the paper, said: â€œGenomic signatures - how genes interact and via what pathways - are a rapidly growing and a powerful method to analyze specific genes in the development, recurrence and spread of breast cancer.â€
After identifying which genes are being activated, physicians can tailor treatments for breast cancer and other diseases to individuals with certain genetic makeups. For example, breast cancer patients with over-expression of a gene called HER2 are currently treated with the antibody Herceptin, which specifically targets the cells over-expressing HER2.
Mr Andrechek, added: â€œWith personalized medicine, we can use predictions of how genes will interact, and based on that we can make better use of existing treatments that will have more of an impact.â€
As part of the research, Andrechek and his team focused on tumors initiated by Myc, a gene that is amplified in 15 percent of all human breast cancer cases. The team then analyzed the tumors to test which pathways were critical to tumor growth, first in computer models and then in rodent models.
In addition to the discovery of E2F2's role in tumor incidence and relapse, the research also revealed the gene was critical for the development of a type of basal tumor. These tumors are similar to the so-called triple negative tumors in human breast cancer that are more prevalent among blacks and are much more difficult to treat.
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