A potential target for the treatment of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer has been identified by researchers at Andel Research Institute (VARI).
They found that the Met gene may play a critical role in the development of an aggressive form of breast cancer known as basal breast cancer.
"Breast cancer mortality rates are actually declining, but the cancers that don't respond to traditional treatments tend to be more aggressive and have decreased survival rates," said VARI Research Scientist Carrie Graveel, Ph.D., lead author of the study.
VARI Distinguished Scientific Fellow George Vande Woude, Ph.D., who heads the laboratory that conducted the research, said: "Met has already been associated with decreased survival in breast cancer, but this study identifies its importance in specific types that can be distinguished at the molecular level."
In the 1980's, Dr. Vande Woude's laboratory at the National Cancer Institute demonstrated that inappropriate levels of Met occur in human tumours, and that cells with inappropriate Met signaling dramatically impact the spread of cancer.
This signaling is implicated in most types of human cancers and high Met expression often correlates with poor prognosis.
"We found Met in the majority of breast cancers. But levels were highest in aggressive types, making Met a promising drug target that could help patients that currently have few treatment options," said VARI Research Technician Jack DeGroot, another of the study's authors.
The study has been published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A.