Cancer specialists at the University of East Anglia have discoveredthat several 'ADAMTS' genes are turned off in breast cancer compared tonormal breast tissue, while others are switched on. These genes couldbe targets for the development of 'smart' drugs tailored to treatindividual patients' tumours.
The ADAMTS genes are recent additions to a large family known as themetalloproteinases -- many of which can break down tissues and havetherefore been linked with tumour metastasis, or spread, through thebody. However, the ADAMTS group had not previously been linked to thedevelopment of breast cancer. These new findings suggest they couldbecome robust 'markers', predicting disease outcome in breast cancerpatients and identifying those patients most at risk of recurrence ofthe disease.
Funded by Breast Cancer Campaign, the innovative three-yearstudy has been undertaken by Dr Sarah Porter and Prof Dylan Edwards ofUEA's School of Biological Sciences, using tissue samples from patientsat the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and a medical centre inNijmegen in The Netherlands. The findings have just been published inthe International Journal of Cancer.
"We are beginning to understand how genes contribute to breastcancer development and I am confident this work will ultimately provevaluable for both diagnosis and treatment of the disease," said ProfEdwards.
Pamela Goldberg, Breast Cancer Campaign chief executive, said:"The spread of breast cancer around the body is the single mostimportant factor in breast cancer mortality. The findings of thisresearch will play a major role in improving the future of breastcancer treatment which will focus on drug regimes tailored to theindividual patient."
Earlier published work by Dr Porter and Prof Edwards showedthat 11 of the 19 ADAMTS genes in humans are significantly altered asbreast cancer develops. Their latest research now focuses on two of thegenes, ADAMTS8 and ADAMTS15, and has shown that they can help topredict disease outcome in breast cancer patients. These new findingsshow that differing levels of activity of these genes means thatpatients can be grouped into one of four categories. These categoriescould be used to predict the likelihood of the breast cancer recurring.Those in the highest risk category are three times more likely to havea recurrence of breast cancer, and over five times more likely to diefrom the disease, than patients in the lowest risk category.
The UEA team hope that, in the future, clinicians will look atthe levels of ADAMTS genes in a patient's tumour and be able toprescribe the most effective therapy for treating the disease.
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