An Indian born scientist and his team has discovered two cancer-spurring gene rearrangements that may trigger 5 to 7 percent of all breast cancers.
Looking at the genetic sequencing of 89 breast cancer cell lines and tumours, the researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Centre found two distinct types of genetic rearrangements that appear to be driving this subset of breast cancers.
The recurrent patterns were seen in the MAST kinase and Notch family genes.
“What’s exciting is that these gene fusions and rearrangements can give us targets for potential therapies,” said Arul Chinnaiyan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology.
“This is a great example of why treating cancer is so challenging. There are so many different ways genes get recombined and so many molecular subtypes, that there’s not one solution that will work for all of them.
“The research provides additional evidence that these types of genetic rearrangements seem to be a significant cause of solid tumours,” he added.
The discoveries illuminate a promising path for future research, Chinnaiyan noted.
Gene sequencing offers opportunities to develop treatments for individuals whose tumours carry specific genetic combinations – a process commonly known as “personalized medicine.”
The study demonstrated that the genetic rearrangements had profound effects on breast cancer cells in the lab, both in tissue culture and in mouse models.
“We cloned each of these rearrangements and introduced them into normal breast cell lines, where they appeared to have cancer-causing effects,” Chinnaiyan explained.
The findings were published online in Nature Medicine.