Scientists Fine ‘Master’ Breast Cancer Gene

An interesting article from yahoo and hope for a cure

Geneticists have identified a super gene which causes breast cancer to metastasise, the deadly process by which the disease spreads to other organs, according to a study released Wednesday.

Described by the US researchers as a “master regulator,” the SATB1 gene alters the behaviour of at least 1,000 other genes within tumour cells, said the study, published in the British journal Nature.

When over-activated it makes cancer cells proliferate, and when neutralised the gene stops the cells from dividing and migrating, the study reported.

“SATB1 will be a remarkable target for cancer therapy,” lead scientist Termumi Kohwi-Shigematsu of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, told AFP.

The findings could not only pave the way to diagnostic tools that show the likelihood of the disease spreading, she said, but to drugs that could prevent or treat metastasis in breast cancer as well.

Up to now, it was impossible to predict whether cancer cells in a tumour were destined to invade neighboring tissue, travel through the blood system and form secondary tumours elsewhere in the body.

But the SATB1 protein is just such a marker. A tumour in which it is activated “is destined to metastasise,” said Kohwi-Shigematsu.

Metastasis is the overwhelming cause of death in patients with solid tumours. Less than 10 percent of women with metastatic breast cancer survive beyond a decade, and just over a quarter make it past five years.

[…]Scientists have come to realise, she said, that there are gene expression patterns called prognosis signatures, genetic profiles found across primary tumours that have metastatic potential.

“And now we have identified the protein master regulator for metastatis,” she said.

But the most basic question remains to be answered, she added. “What turns SATB1 on during the course of breast cancer progression? We just don’t know.”

According to the American Cancer Society, about 1.3 million women worldwide are diagnosed each year with breast cancer, and nearly half-a-million succumb to the disease.

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