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Breast cancer in young women: A distinct disease
Date:5/3/2012

, there are several genes and gene signatures that are significantly associated with age in breast cancer patients," Dr Azim explained. "Some were highly expressed in young women --including stem cells, luminal progenitors, RANK-ligand (RANKL) and c-kit-- while others were down-regulated, such as genes related to programmed cell death, or apoptosis."

The findings show that breast cancer arising at a young age seems to be associated with age-related biological processes, which appear to be independent of other prognostic factors that are commonly used by oncologists.

The genomic analysis also identified a number of signaling pathways in the breast cancers of young women that could be potential targets for treatment, Dr Azim's group reports.

For example, a gene signature of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase molecular pathway was highly associated with young age. "PI3k is an important targetable signaling pathway in breast cancer and perhaps these results could encourage investigating its role in breast cancer arising in young women," Dr Azim said.

The researchers also found that a gene called RANKL is highly expressed in young women with breast cancer. RANKL is known to play a vital role in the spread of cancer to the bones, and emerging preclinical data have shown that RANKL appears to have an anti-tumor effect apart from its role in bone metastasis.

"Putting all the information in context, we hypothesize that perhaps targeting RANKL could be particularly interesting in young breast cancer patients," Dr Azim said. The researchers from Institut Jules Bordet are in fact planning a clinical trial in which premenopausal breast cancer patients will receive two injections of a drug called denosumab, which is a RANK-ligand inhibitor, one week before surgery. The aim of the study is to evaluate the effect of RANK-ligand targeting on the biology of the tumor. The study, called D-BEYOND, is expected to start in 2012 in three Belgian ce
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Contact: Vanessa Pavinato
media@esmo.org
European Society for Medical Oncology
Source:Eurekalert

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