Scientists looking at ways of treating breast cancer have pinpointed a gene that not only aids in the spread of the disease but also contributes to its ability to resist chemotherapy.
Researchers at Princeton University identified the gene metadherin (MTDH) as an important new target for the treatment of high-risk breast cancers by using computer technology to link MTDH with metastasis and drug resistance.
The study, published in the journal Cancer Cell, used a computer-based algorithm to map the minimum number of genetic signatures linked to severe breast cancers.
They found that a particular genetic pattern on chromosome region 8q22 occurred in more than 30% of tumours whose patients had shorter survival times because of recurrent and metastatic cancers.
Senior investigator, Dr Yibin Kang said: “Most breast cancer patients resist currently available therapeutic regimens and succumb to recurrent tumours that spread to distant vital organs, such as lung, bone, liver and brain.
“Resistance to chemotherapy and metastasis remain major challenges to curative therapy.”
Dr Kang said the process of metastasis, where new cancer sites are “seeded” with tumours, occurs because the MTDH protein encouraged cancer cells to bind to the blood vessels of organs at the new sites.
It also enhanced chemoresistance by promoting cancer cell survival against a range of chemotherapy agents.
Copyright Press Association 2009