Scientists at Wistar Institute have identified a gene called KLF17, which appears to be involved in the spread of breast cancer throughout the body.
"Identifying the gene that suppresses the spread of tumor cells and the mechanisms by which this suppression occurs can lead to the discovery of new markers of metastasis and potential targets for cancer prevention and treatment," Nature quoted Dr Qihong Huang, assistant professor at The Wistar Institute and senior author of the study as saying.
During the study, the researchers genetic screened 40,000 mouse genes into mammary tumor cells that do not usually spread, and then transplanted those cells to the mammary fat pads in mice where they would be expected to remain.
Through RNA interference (RNAi) technology, they then reduced the expression of a metastasis-suppressor gene in five mice, one of which developed lung metastases in seven weeks. RNA retrieved from the metastasized cells corresponded to KLF17.
The researchers also were interested specifically in genes whose expression were increased in KLF17 knockdown cells but decreased in KLF17 overexpressing cells or vice versa. They found the significant genes that met these criteria.
Among them, the gene Id1 was found to be up-regulated in KLF17 knockdown cells and down-regulated in KLF17 overexpressing cells.
The study showed that that expression of KLF17 together with Id1gene accurately predicts whether the disease will spread to the lymph nodes.
The study appears online in Nature Cell.