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Protein snapshots reveal clues to breast cancer outcomes
Date:5/5/2011

Measuring the transfer of tiny amounts of energy from one protein to another on breast cancer cells has given scientists a detailed view of molecular interactions that could help predict how breast cancer patients will respond to particular therapies.

At the IMPAKT Breast Cancer Conference in Brussels, Dr Gargi Patel from the Richard Dimbleby Department, King's College London, described cutting-edge research in which she and colleagues captured detailed information about protein interactions on cancer cells, and correlated that with established genetic markers for cancer spread.

Dr Patel's group used a microscope technique known as Foerster resonance energy transfer (FRET) imaging, which allows them to measure the interactions between two proteins.

In this technique, each of the proteins is labeled with a fluorescent tag --one might be labeled green and the other red, for example. A laser is used to excite one of these labels, which becomes excited and then decays back to its rest state in a specific lifetime, which the researchers define as its fluorescent lifetime.

When this label comes within a nanometer of the second label, exciting by the laser causes some of its energy to be donated to the other label, and the fluorescent lifetime of the first label becomes shorter. "In the context of our work, this process only occurs when two proteins are close enough to be interacting, and hence we can quantitate protein-protein interactions," Dr Patel explains.

In earlier work, Dr Patel's group used this technique on breast cancer cells in the lab to describe in detail the interaction between the cell-surface molecules Her2 and Her3 that is known to determine whether a cancer will respond to the drug lapatinib.

"We aim to establish a 'signature' representing functional molecular biology, by examining protein-protein interactions, and to correlate this signature with established prognostic gene signatures and
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Contact: Vanessa Pavinato
media@esmo.org
European Society for Medical Oncology
Source:Eurekalert

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