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Test Helps Identify Patients with Breast Cancer

A test that measures the amounts of two members of the same protein family - one of which appears to act as an oncogene // , and the other as a tumor suppressor - helps identify patients with breast cancer who will likely benefit from chemotherapy and those who won’t, according to researchers.

The test, known as OncoPlan?, is already commercially available, and studies have shown that it can predict the aggressiveness of the patient’s tumor and the relative risk of disease recurrence following surgery in breast, colon and gastric cancers. Now, researchers in the U.S. and Canada have studied whether it also can help identify breast cancer patients who would benefit most from chemotherapy.

Results were presented at the first meeting on Molecular Diagnostics in Cancer Therapeutic Development, organized by the American Association for Cancer Research.

OncoPlan measures two forms of Shc protein, which are known to drive the formation of protein complexes involved in signal transduction pathways and have been found to be involved in many of the pathways important to development of aggressive cancer. These two forms have a “push pull” relationship with each other: tyrosine-phosphorylated (PY)-Shc helps drive these dangerous cell pathways, but p66 Shc, after initial stimulation, works to inhibit the very growth pathway the other Shc proteins promote.

“This may be one mechanism whereby normal cells prevent runaway growth,” said the study’s lead author, A. Raymond Frackelton, Jr., Ph.D., a Brown University associate professor, staff scientist at Roger Williams Medical Center and Vice President of Research at Catalyst Oncology, which is marketing OncoPlan. “Perhaps more importantly, aggressive cancer cells must endure oxidative stress—stress that in normal cells triggers p66 Shc to cause cellular suicide,” he said. “Tumor cells, then, may have both growth and survival advantages if p66 Shc levels are low.”

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