Breast cancers can be divided into different subtypes based on several criteria, including whether or not they express the protein to which the female hormone estrogen binds; that is, the estrogen receptor (ER). Patients with ER-negative breast tumors have a worse outlook than those with ER-positive breast tumors.
However, even among ER-negative breast tumors, those characterized as basal-like are the most aggressive and difficult to treat. New therapeutic targets for this subtype of breast cancer are urgently needed.
Now, a team of researchers, led by Stefan Ambs, at the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, report data that suggest that the protein NOS2 could be a good drug target in this context. The data, generated by analysis of human breast cancer samples and cell lines, lead the authors to conclude that high levels of NOS2 are a predictor of survival in patients with ER-negative breast tumors and to suggest that selective NOS2 inhibitors might be of benefit to these individuals.
The research is reported in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
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