A new research has shared findings that link breast cancer survival rates to two genes. The research suggests that testing for the activity of these specific two genes might help doctors to identify women who are at an increased risk of dying due to breast cancer.
The study, published in the journal Oncotarget, found that tumors in women that displayed a specific pattern of activity were three times more vulnerable to die in 10 years compared to tumors that showed a different pattern of activity.
Cancer cells are believed to be freed and spread inside the body by two genes known as F12 and STC2. Scientists at London’s Institute of Cancer Research conducted the current research. A total of 2,000 women with HER2 positive breast cancer were focused on. A high level of HER2 protein is associated with growth of cancer in such women.
The study observed that the tumors in women having highly active F12 genes and a low activity of STC2 gene increased their chance of dying within 10 years by 32%. However, chances of dying within 10 years was only 10% in women that had tumors exhibiting low activity of F12 and high activity of STC2 genes.
A new image-based screening technique was developed by the researchers to identify cancer cells that didn’t stick to the protein laminin, which helps build scaffolding around cells in order to glue them together.
According to lead researcher, Dr. Paul Huang, the head of the Protein Networks Team at the Institute of Cancer Research, said that “Survival rates for breast cancer are now much higher than they were a few decades ago, but the disease remains deadly once it has spread round the body. 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. We found that the activity of two genes which may help control how tightly cells are glued together is linked to breast cancer survival. 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.”
Furthermore, Professor Paul Workman, the chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research, London, said that “We have seen major strides in the treatment of breast cancer, but once it begins to spread round the body it is still often fatal. 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.”
Clinical nurse specialist at the charity Breast Cancer Care, Catherine Priestly, said that “This is a promising study which helps shed light on how specific genes in breast tumors can affect the cancer’s ability to spread around the body. Anything that could assist in identifying those who are at an increased risk of their breast cancer spreading is a great thing.”
She added that the current research was encouraging as it may help develop more effective treatments for breast cancer and give rise to a future where treatment to patients is delivered in a more tailored manner.