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New data improve understanding of breast cancer's multiple varieties
Date:5/3/2012

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A marker for response to neoadjuvant anthracycline/taxane chemotherapy

Breast cancers that express low levels of the protein mucin-1 tend to respond better to pre-surgical chemotherapy with anthracyclines and taxanes, say German researchers.

Dr Bruno Sinn from Charit Universittsmedizin Berlin and colleagues from the German Breast Group set out to evaluate how many breast cancers express the gene MUC1, and whether expression of this gene could help predict response and survival after neoadjuvant anthracycline/taxane-based chemotherapy.

"Mucins are present on the internal surface of different organs throughout the body, including the gastrointestinal tract, the lungs and the breast glands," Dr Sinn explained. "In healthy tissues, their role is mainly to protect and to lubricate these surfaces. Mucins, among them mucin-1, have also been shown to be very frequently and abundantly present in tumor cells like breast cancer cells. In cancer, mucin-1 is often present in an altered form and in abnormal locations of the cell. In laboratory experiments, it has been shown that mucin-1 interacts with several cellular signaling networks that may contribute to the malignant behavior of the cells." Interestingly, it is also known that mucin-1 plays a role in the interaction of tumor cells with the immune system of the patient. Abnormal mucin-1 on cancer cells may serve as an antigen that helps to induce the patient's immune system to attack and remove these cells.

The researchers studied tumor biopsy samples from a previous clinical trial of the German Breast Group. In 691 samples, they tested for the presence of the MUC1 protein, and in 268 they explored expression of messenger RNA for the gene. They could detect MUC1 in 656 (95%) cases, and the level of mRNA for the gene varied 1000-fold between tumors.

"High MUC1 protein and mRNA expression were seen more frequently in hormone-receptor positive tumors," Dr Sinn sa
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Contact: Vanessa Pavinato
media@esmo.org
European Society for Medical Oncology
Source:Eurekalert

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