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Mechanical forces driving breast cancer lead to key molecular discovery
Date:3/27/2014

ls. The miR-18a dials down the levels of a protective, tumor-suppressing protein called PTEN, which often is disabled in cancerous cells, leading to abnormal biochemical signaling that can promote cancer growth.

Stiffening of the tissue microenvironment in tumors

Weaver is a trained biochemist, and has been a trailblazer in the study of tissue mechanics and cancer for 15 years. Mouw is a mechanical engineer. The newly reported UCSF discovery highlights the importance of mechanical forces in the development of cancer, which usually is thought of in biochemical terms.

Armed with modern lab techniques, Weaver has made many discoveries about the mechanical and structural properties of tumor tissue and the stiffening that can occur. For example, she was the first to identify the cross-linking of structural elements within the ECM as a precursor to cancer progression.

Her research team's latest findings are of clinical interest because they may lead to earlier identification of certain difficult-to-treat breast cancers. About 60 percent of breast cancers can be easily identified as a type known as luminal breast cancer, but there are two subtypes of luminal breast cancer that are difficult to distinguish.

Luminal A breast cancer accounts for about 40 percent of all breast cancers, while luminal B breast cancer comprises about 20 percent. On average, women with luminal B breast cancer do not survive as long after treatment without breast cancer recurring, and they are less likely to respond to hormone therapies such as tamoxifen. Lack of a good diagnostic tool results in overtreatment of many luminal A breast cancers, Weaver said.

According to Shelley Hwang, MD, PhD, chief of breast surgery at Duke University Hospital, former UCSF faculty member and a clinical collaborator for the Nature Medicine study, "Current methods for distinguishing luminal A breast cancer from luminal B breast cancer are expensive and t
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Contact: Jeffrey Norris
jeffrey.norris@ucsf.edu
415-502-6397
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert

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