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Tau protein expression predicts breast cancer survival -- though not as expected
Date:12/13/2008

SAN ANTONIO - Expression of the microtubule-binding protein Tau is not a reliable means of selecting breast cancer patients for adjuvant paclitaxel chemotherapy, according to research led by The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Presented today, Dec. 13, at the CRTC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, the researchers found that Tau expression does predict survival, yet in an unexpected way.

In earlier neoadjuvant studies, investigators from M. D. Anderson found that low levels of Tau predicted a good response to pre-operative chemotherapy. In vitro studies had shown that down-regulation of Tau expression increased the sensitivity of breast cancer cell lines to paclitaxel. Other studies suggested that high levels of Tau partially protect microtubules from paclitaxel binding and that low levels of the protein leave microtubules more accessible and vulnerable to the drug.

"If you treat patients who have a low level of Tau protein expression with pre-operative chemotherapy in neo-adjuvant studies, they are very likely to have a good response to the chemotherapy," said Lajos Pusztai, M.D., D. Phil, associate professor of medicine in the Department of Breast Medical Oncology at M. D. Anderson and the study's first author. "We wanted to see if this correlation would hold up in predicting survival in adjuvant studies."

Working with researchers from the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP), the investigators assessed Tau protein expression in primary breast cancer specimens from 1,942 patients in the NSABP-B28 clinical trial. The goal was to evaluate the prognostic value of Tau in these patients, who were treated with four courses of doxorubicin/cyclophosphamide (AC) or AC followed by four courses of paclitaxel. All hormone receptor-positive patients in the trial also received adjuvant endocrine therapy.

The hypothesis was that patients whose tumors expressed low levels of Ta
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Contact: Laura Sussman
lsussman@mdanderson.org
832-264-8893
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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