The multidisciplinary research strategy used by the team to pinpoint the gene in breast cancer patients also could be used to find other genes involved in the spread of other cancers, scientists said.
"The potential health implications of this study are significant," Kang said.
The discovery is based on three years of work, using an approach that combines the emerging science of integrative genomics with the classical methods of clinical research and laboratory experiments.
"This paper is a great illustration of the way in which bioinformatics can be synergistically combined with experimental work to produce important results," said David Botstein, director of Princeton's Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics.
From the beginning, the scientists were looking for a way to understand the dreaded process of metastasis, the term describing what happens when cancer spreads to distant vital organs, such as the lungs, liver, brain and even the bones.
As the scientists well understood, patients whose breast cancer can be confined to the breast have the best chances at survival. The five-year survival rates, as compiled by the National Cancer Institute, illustrate the difference between localized and metastatic cancer: 98.1 percent of patients with localized breast cancer survive five years after diagnosis, as opposed to 27.1 percent for patients with cancer that has traveled beyond the lymph nodes to bodily organs, according to the federal agency's statistics.
In recent years, researchers have used advanced techniques such as DNA microarray technology to try and identify genetic profiles of the so called "poor prognosis" tumors -- those that are likely to come back after the initial treatment and are most likely to spread beyond the breast. Such studies, though useful in predicting outcomes, have perplexingly offered up differing gene "
|Contact: Kitta MacPherson|