Breast cancer linked to lifestyle & three new genes

January 01, 2016

For the study the team looked at breast cancer cells taken from 104 patients with ???estrogen receptor positive?? breast cancer. This is a type of breast cancer where the cancerous cells are stimulated by the presence of the female hormone estrogen due to them possessing receptors for the hormone. The researchers wanted to identify any gene variants that were closely linked to ESR1, the main gene that governs the estrogen receptor in the human body. The researchers explained that about 80% of all breast cancers are of this type, which is known to respond to anti-oestrogen therapy, such as the commonly used drug tamoxifen.

Results from the study showed three previously uncharacterised genes ???immediately upstream?? of ESR1, that is, in the genetic sequence immediately surrounding the ESR1 gene. These were called C6ORF96, C6ORF97, C6ORF211. They found that while these genes were closely linked to the estrogen receptor gene, they were working separately from it. They found that C6ORF211 appeared to drive the growth of tumours and C6ORF97 appeared to be an indicator of a tumour not coming back, as well as a good predictor of response to tamoxifen. Less was discovered about the function of C6ORF96. The researchers say their observations suggest some of the biological effects previously attributed to the ESR1, the estrogen receptor gene, could be mediated or modified by these co-expressed genes.

Professor Mitch Dowsett, who led the research, said that the research shows that ???while the estrogen receptor is the main driver of hormonal breast cancer, there are others next door to it that also appear to influence breast cancer behaviour. We now need to better understand how they work together and how we can utilize them to save lives of women with breast cancer.??? Because C6ORF211 appears to drive the growth of tumours, the team sees this as the most likely target for new treatments.

Researchers note, further work needs to be undertaken into the behaviour of these genes, to see if or how they influence the risk and also course of the disease. It is possible that one or all of these genes could be targets for new therapies to prevent and treat breast cancer treatments in the future, but substantial research is required to develop the new, experimental treatments first and then to ascertain whether safe treatment or prevention is possible.