Women with the deadliest and rarest form of breast cancer now have a chance of treatment where once their options were severely limited, thanks to a new discovery by George Mason University researchers.
This aggressive cancer, called "inflammatory breast cancer," kills about half the women who have it within five years; patients live on average a mere 18 months after diagnosis. About 10,000 women are diagnosed each year with inflammatory breast cancer, according to U.S. government statistics.
In a recent study, Mason scientists pinpointed a key driver in the cancer that is leading to new ways to treat it. This study is not only a success for cancer patients but for a pioneering research method that discovered the finding as well, says Emanuel "Chip" Petricoin, co-director of Mason's Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine (CAPMM) along with Lance Liotta.
This summer, doctors at Philadelphia's Fox Chase Cancer Center under the direction of Massimo Cristofanilli, the center's chair of medical oncology, began treating inflammatory breast cancer patients with a drug originally developed for non-small cell lung cancer because Mason research revealed a commonality between the two cancers. Prior to the research, these breast cancer patients had limited treatment options, Petricoin says.
Discovering how the cancer works using proteomics, an approach that looks at the proteins on the genes, was essential to the finding. If researchers had stuck with traditional genome analysis, they would have missed the protein that can be targeted to treat this particularly dangerous form of breast cancer, Petricoin says. The proteins on the genes are the key for successful treatment.
"It is the proteins that the drug targets, not the genes," he says.
Petricoin and Liotta invented a technology called the reverse phase protein array a decade ago, which Mason exclusively licensed to Theranostics Health, Inc, a comp
|Contact: Michele McDonald|
George Mason University