Basal-like breast cancer (BLBC) is an aggressive form of breast cancer. It is often referred to as 'triple negative', which means that it is not responsive to the common medical therapeutics. This cancer type is more common in African-American women and those under the age of 40 years. Researchers from the Boston University and the University of Cyprus have now identified a new cancer maker, which could also be a possible therapeutic target for what is known to be one of the deadliest breast cancers.
The research teams compared the markers on the surface of the cancer cells to gene expression profile of breast tumors deposited by researchers in international public databases. They found that a molecule named IL13RA2 was abundant in metastatic or late-stage BLBC. After having a look at publically available data on patients, the research team was able to predict the likelihood of progression-free survival based on whether the cancer cells had high levels of IL13RA2. The scientists also discovered that a subtype of BLBC that tended to spread to the lungs quickly had high IL13RA2 levels.
The researchers found that the tumor growth was significantly slower in models, when the amount of IL13RA2 expression was reduced in cancer cells. This suggests that IL13RA2 was involved in cancer growth and spread.
Sam Thiagalingam said, "The discovery offered a glimmer of hope for patients struck with BLBC, adding that personalized cancer therapies could be developed by targeting breast cancer cells that express copious levels of IL13RA2."
The study appears online in Breast Cancer Research.