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Breast cancer's many drivers
Date:6/20/2012

Breast cancer is not a single disease, but a collection of diseases with dozens of different mutations that crop up with varying frequency across different breast cancer subtypes. Deeper exploration of the genetic changes that drive breast cancer is revealing new complexity in the leading cause of cancer death in women worldwide.

In one of the largest breast cancer sequencing efforts to date, scientists from the Broad Institute, the National Institute of Genomic Medicine in Mexico City, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have discovered surprising alterations in genes that were not previously associated with breast cancer. They report their results in the June 21 issue of Nature, which is publishing a series of papers characterizing the genomic landscape of breast cancer.

One of the team's new findings, a recurrent fusion of the genes MAGI3 and AKT3 in what is known as a translocation event, was observed in tumors from a rare but aggressive form of breast cancer known as triple-negative breast cancer. This cancer does not respond to conventional hormone therapy because its tumors lack three receptors that fuel most breast cancers: estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (known as HER2). But the biological pathway that is affected by the MAGI3-AKT3 reshuffling is already the target of experimental drugs.

The other new alteration reported by the team occurred in two transcription factor genes. Recurrent mutations were detected in the gene CBFB and deletions of its partner RUNX1. Cancer-causing rearrangements of these two genes are common in blood cancers, such as acute myeloid leukemia, but their discovery in breast cancer marks the first time they have been seen in a solid cancer.

"These genes wouldn't top the list of genes you think would be mutated in breast cancer," said Alfredo Hidalgo Miranda, co-senior author of the paper and he
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Contact: Nicole Davis
ndavis@broadinstitute.org
617-714-7152
Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
Source:Eurekalert

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