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“Bridge” Protein Spurs Deadliest Stages of Breast Cancr

A protein known for its ability to “bridge” interactions between other cellular proteins may spur metastasis in breast cancer//, the disease’s deadliest stage, a study from Burnham Institute for Medical Research has found.

Led by professor Gen-Sheng Feng, Ph.D., and colleagues at Burnham and Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, Quebec, the study ranks among the first to more precisely define the cancer role for the protein known as Gab-2. These results, to be published in the journal Oncogene, have been made available to the worldwide medical research community by priority posting online at the journal’s website.

The protein has been of keen research interest for its role in breast cancer, but whether it controlled metastasis or initial tumor growth was unknown. Gab-2 is one of a group of proteins known as “scaffold” or “bridge” proteins, which provide a molecular intermediary to help cell signal proteins interact.

“Although Gab-2 is highly expressed in breast cancer, it is not essential for the development of cancer,” said Feng. “We found that Gab-2 is, however, essential for metastasis, or the spread of cancer. Breast cancer victims can survive before metastasis, but their chances decrease significantly when the cancer cells have spread. If we can understand precisely how Gab-2 functions in metastasis, then we might be able use this knowledge to design treatments that would block the deadly metastasis.”

Feng, who studies molecular signaling in embryonic stem cells and examines signaling pathways that are involved in obesity and diabetes, has studied the roles played by Gab-2 and its chemical cousin Gab-1, in various disorders. His fundamental analyses of cell signaling for Gab-2 led him to study the protein in cancer cells.

Feng and his colleagues began by examining Gab-2’s role in a pathway influenced by the cancer-causing oncogene Neu, which is implicated in nearly 30 percent of human breast cancers and
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