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Aggressive breast cancer 'switch' identified

Sun, Mar 29, 2015, 12:53 PM
Sydney, March 29, 2015: Australian researchers have identified a gene that drives an aggressive form of breast cancer, and they hope to find a way to "switch it off".

The study's main finding that a gene known as "inhibitor of differentiation 4" (ID4) not only "marks" but appears to control the highly aggressive form of triple negative breast cancer was published online in the journal Nature Communications.

"We found that ID4 is produced at high levels in roughly half of all triple negative breast cancers," said project leader Alex Swarbrick from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney.

The researchers found that triple-negative breast cancers have two forms that likely originate from different cell types. This helps explain why survival prospects for women with the diagnosis tend to be either very good or very bad.

The aggressive form of triple-negative breast cancer appears to arise from stem cells, while the more benign form appears to arise from specialised cells.

The gene ID4 determines whether a stem cell remains a stem cell, or whether it differentiates into a specialist cell.

The researchers found that when the high levels of ID4 in a stem cell are "switched off", other genes that drive cell specialisation are "switched on".

"We showed that if you block the ID4 gene in experimental models of triple negative breast cancer, the tumour cells stop dividing," Swarbrick said.
Agency: IANS

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