Genes May Hold Key to Breast Cancer Mortality

     (CN) — Measuring the activity of two genes could indicate the likelihood that a woman with breast cancer will die from the disease, a study published Wednesday finds.
     The research, which focused on nearly 2,000 patients, showed that women whose tumors had high F12 gene activity and low STC2 gene activity were three times as likely to die within 10 years.
     While additional research is needed, the team believes the genes might play a crucial role in releasing cells from the glue that normally holds them in place, known as the extracellular matrix. Without being glued in place, the cancer cells can spread through a woman’s body.
     “If the results are confirmed in larger studies, it could give us a new way of assessing women’s survival chances in the clinic, and adjusting treatment accordingly,” said lead author Paul Huang.
     The study was published in the journal Oncotarget.
     The team examined breast cancer cells that were positive for the protein HER2 — the target of the drug Herceptin — found in about 20 percent of tumors.
     Using a new image-based screening technique, the researchers identified cancer cells that didn’t stick to the protein laminin, which helps build a temporary structure around cells, essentially gluing them together.
     “Our study sheds light on how cancer cells unstick themselves from healthy tissue, and it could help pick out women at high risk of their cancer spreading and becoming fatal,” Huang said.
     On the other hand, low F12 activity and high STC2 activity presented a 10 percent likelihood of breast cancer patients dying within 10 years, a much lower risk of mortality than the reverse.
     The researchers say that measuring the activity levels of these two genes could be used to determine how likely a woman is to die.
     “This new study helps us understand some of the processes that control how breast cancers spread, and identifies a pattern of genetic activity that could be used to pick out women particularly at risk,” Paul Workman, chief executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, said.

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