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Vet medicine researcher examines link between cancer, Down syndrome
Date:2/4/2008

COLLEGE STATION, Feb. 4, 2008 Theres new hope for breast cancer research, and its coming from a very unlikely place. Researchers at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences recently published articles in the journals Molecular and Cellular Biology and Carcinogenesis indicating that a protein long suspected to play a role in Down Syndrome may also contribute to treating this devastating disease.

It has long been known that Down Syndrome is caused when an individual has an extra copy of the 21st chromosome, giving them a total of three instead of the normal chromosome pair. With improved medical care, people with Down Syndrome are now living longer, healthier lives. With this advance came the observation that individuals with Down Syndrome have a significant decrease in risk for several types of tumors. Most striking is the observation that women with Down Syndrome are 10-25 times less likely to develop breast cancer.

This effect is thought to be due to the presence of one or more tumor suppressor genes on chromosome 21. However, the identity of such genes has not been known, until now.

Years of research into the genetics of Down Syndrome have helped us to discover a very important gene on chromosome 21, said Dr. Weston Porter, associate professor in the Veterinary Integrative Biosciences Department. This gene, called Single-minded 2 or SIM2 is thought to play an important role in Down Syndrome by regulating neuron growth in the developing brain. Based on its developmental role, we hypothesized that SIM2 may also be involved in breast cancer, which is essentially a disease of uncontrolled growth.

For the last five years, Porter and his colleagues, Richard Metz, Brian Laffin and Elizabeth Wellberg, have been using human breast cells and mouse models as part of a research grant from the National Institutes of Health to validate this hypothesis, and what they have found they consider very
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Contact: Keith Randall
keith-randall@tamu.edu
979-845-4644
Texas A&M University
Source:Eurekalert

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