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New subtype of breast cancer responds to targeted drug
Date:3/1/2010

A newly identified cancer biomarker could define a new subtype of breast cancer as well as offer a potential way to treat it, say researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Their findings will be published in the March 1 online early edition issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research could further refine what recent breast cancer research has concluded: that breast cancer is not one disease, but many. So far, research has firmly established that at least five subtypes of breast cancer exist, each having distinct biological features, clinical outcomes and responses to traditional therapies.

The biomarker identified by the Washington University researchers is found frequently in breast cancers and especially in those that have poorer outcomes. It stems from overactivation of a gene called LRP6 (low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 6), which stimulates an important cell-growth signaling pathway. LRP6 can be inhibited by a protein discovered in the same laboratory, which could become an effective drug against the breast cancer type, the researchers say.

"We found increased expression of the LRP6 gene in about a quarter of breast cancer specimens we examined, and we think LRP6 overexpression could be a marker for a new class of breast cancer," says Guojun Bu, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics and of cell biology and physiology. "In addition, we found that this biomarker is often associated with breast cancers that are either harder to treat or more likely to recur. We already have an agent that seems to be effective against LRP6-overexpressing tumors, which could someday become a therapy for tumors that right now have few treatment options."

The research was conducted primarily by Chia-Chen Liu, a graduate student in the Bu lab, who is a fellow in the Cancer Biology Pathway Program at the Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University School of Medicine and
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Contact: Gwen Ericson
ericsong@wustl.edu
314-286-0141
Washington University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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