New gene hunt reveals potential breast cancer treatment target

March 08, 2019

Australian and US researchers have developed a way to discover elusive cancer-promoting genes, and have already identified one that appears to promote aggressive breast cancers.

The University of Queensland and Albert Einstein College of Medicine team has developed a statistical approach to reveal many previously hard-to-find genes that contribute to cancer.

Associate Professor Jess Mar, of the University of Queensland's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, said the majority of 'oncogenes' identified to date showed up in most patients with a particular cancer type.

"When you average the data across those patients, those common oncogenes tend to stand out, but they don't paint the full picture," Dr Mar said.

"Even if a group of people all have the same type or even subtype of cancer, the molecular makeup of that cancer is different from person to person because the activity of genes vary between people," she said.

"If an oncogene is over-active in one group of patients but inactive in another group, that's statistically harder to see using the tools that we had available.

"If you only look at the average activity of a gene across the two groups, you'd never see the high activity in the first group."

The Oncomix method enables researchers to 'zoom in' on genetic information from cancer patients and identify genes with two distinct 'bumps' of data - low activity in one group of patients but high activity in another.

"We're acknowledging that there is diversity among cancer patients, but we're still looking for trends in the data that pertain to groups of people," Dr Mar said.

Dr Mar and her colleagues used Oncomix to examine breast cancer data from The Cancer Genome Atlas patient database.

They identified five genes that were over-active in a subset of breast cancer patients and followed up on the most promising target, known as CBX2.

"Previous studies have shown that most healthy female tissue has low levels of CBX2 activity, while an aggressive subtype of breast cancer has been shown to have high levels of CBX2 activity," Dr Mar said.

"This suggested a possible link between CBX2 activity and breast cancer, but the nature of that link hadn't been investigated.

"So we switched off the gene in a human breast cancer cell line and this slowed down the growth of those cancer cells, suggesting that CBX2 might promote tumour growth."

Dr Mar said if further tests confirmed that CBX2 was an oncogene, it could be a potential therapeutic drug target for aggressive types of breast cancer.

"This discovery highlights the potential value of the Oncomix approach," Dr Mar said.

"Identifying 'hidden' oncogenes that are unique to smaller groups of cancer patients will open up new therapeutic avenues and move us closer to personalised medicine."

Oncomix is now a publicly-available, open source software tool, and the study is published in the British Journal of Cancer.
-end-


University of Queensland

Related Breast Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

Oncotarget: IGF2 expression in breast cancer tumors and in breast cancer cells
The Oncotarget authors propose that methylation of DVDMR represents a novel epigenetic biomarker that determines the levels of IGF2 protein expression in breast cancer.

Breast cancer: AI predicts which pre-malignant breast lesions will progress to advanced cancer
New research at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, could help better determine which patients diagnosed with the pre-malignant breast cancer commonly as stage 0 are likely to progress to invasive breast cancer and therefore might benefit from additional therapy over and above surgery alone.

Partial breast irradiation effective treatment option for low-risk breast cancer
Partial breast irradiation produces similar long-term survival rates and risk for recurrence compared with whole breast irradiation for many women with low-risk, early stage breast cancer, according to new clinical data from a national clinical trial involving researchers from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G.

Breast screening linked to 60 per cent lower risk of breast cancer death in first 10 years
Women who take part in breast screening have a significantly greater benefit from treatments than those who are not screened, according to a study of more than 50,000 women.

More clues revealed in link between normal breast changes and invasive breast cancer
A research team, led by investigators from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, details how a natural and dramatic process -- changes in mammary glands to accommodate breastfeeding -- uses a molecular process believed to contribute to survival of pre-malignant breast cells.

Breast tissue tumor suppressor PTEN: A potential Achilles heel for breast cancer cells
A highly collaborative team of researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and Ohio State University report in Nature Communications that they have identified a novel pathway for connective tissue PTEN in breast cancer cell response to radiotherapy.

Computers equal radiologists in assessing breast density and associated breast cancer risk
Automated breast-density evaluation was just as accurate in predicting women's risk of breast cancer, found and not found by mammography, as subjective evaluation done by radiologists, in a study led by researchers at UC San Francisco and Mayo Clinic.

Blood test can effectively rule out breast cancer, regardless of breast density
A new study published in PLOS ONE demonstrates that Videssa® Breast, a multi-protein biomarker blood test for breast cancer, is unaffected by breast density and can reliably rule out breast cancer in women with both dense and non-dense breast tissue.

Study shows influence of surgeons on likelihood of removal of healthy breast after breast cancer dia
Attending surgeons can have a strong influence on whether a patient undergoes contralateral prophylactic mastectomy after a diagnosis of breast cancer, according to a study published by JAMA Surgery.

Young breast cancer patients undergoing breast conserving surgery see improved prognosis
A new analysis indicates that breast cancer prognoses have improved over time in young women treated with breast conserving surgery.

Read More: Breast Cancer News and Breast Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.