Spokane Journal of Business

Identified gene said pivotal in spread of breast cancer

Further studies could result in new treatments, reduce death risk, researchers say

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Metastasis in breast cancer and the risk of death are reduced when the function of a certain gene, known as HGMA2, is limited, says a new study by Dr. Kiran Chada, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

This finding, published inCancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), might be used to develop therapeutic treatments for patients.

In cancer, the study says, the spread of tumor cells from the primary site to other parts of the body is called metastasis and is a major cause of death, especially in patients with breast cancer.

"Our research has shown that HGMA2 plays a part in regulating the spread of cancer and could be considered a driver of the process," says Chada, who was principal investigator of the study. "Further studies could result in the development of therapeutic treatments for patients with breast cancer, which could prevent HGMA2's function, reduce the spread of cancer, and extend a patient's life."

Chada says only a subset of cancer cells in the primary tumor is potentially metastatic, and those cells are found at the edge of the tumor in a region known as the invasive front. Chada's laboratory showed that normal cells don't express HMGA2, and the expression of that gene product converts normal cells into metastatic cells.

Furthermore, the majority of cells which express HMGA2 in human breast cancer tissue were found to be at the invasive front. In additional studies, the researchers showed mice that couldn't express the HMGA2 gene were found to have a substantially reduced incidence of breast cancer.

Funding for the study was provided by grants from the Columbia University LAM Center and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

The Robert Wood Johnson Medical School is dedicated to education, research, health care delivery, and the promotion of community health. In cooperation with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the medical school's principal affiliate, they comprise New Jersey's academic medical center. In addition, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School has 34 other hospital affiliates and ambulatory care sites throughout the region.

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