14-3-3s gene that plays a crucial role in halting breast cancer initiation and progression has been identified by researchers.
The discovery of this new target by William J. Muller and his team from McGill University's Goodman Cancer Research Centre points to novel therapies that eventually could slow or stop breast cancer progression.
Based on past clinical observations revealing that the expression of gene 14-3-3s is silenced in a large percentage of breast cancers, researchers had long suspected that it played a role in stopping cancer cells from dividing.
The McGill team wanted to confirm whether this was the case. Using a transgenic mouse model that expresses ErbB2, an oncogene associated with aggressive breast cancers, they inactivated the 14-3-3s gene in the mammary gland.
"We found that the loss of this expression did, in fact, result in a dramatic acceleration of tumour onset," Muller said.
"The two genes, 14-3-3s and ErbB2, co-operate, with 14-3-3s being the brakes. If you lose the brakes, ErbB2 can induce the cells to divide indefinitely. Furthermore, not only is the ability of these cells to divide enhanced but they become extraordinarily metastatic. They can invade distant sites,' he added.
The study has been recently published online in the journal Cancer Discovery.