Blocking genes halts growth, spread of triple negative breast cancer
Part of what makes cancer so deadly is its ability to rapidly spread to other parts of the body, leading doctors into a deadly game of Whack-A-Mole. Now, researchers at Tulane University have identified a pair of genes that helps triple negative breast cancer spread – and found a way to switch them off.
The study focused on TRAF3IP2 and Rab27a, two genes that are known to contribute to tumor formation in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). This is a rare and often dangerous form of the disease, characterized by aggressive growth and spread, and poorer outlooks.
Knowing the role of these two troublemaker genes, the researchers experimented with inhibiting them in animals to see if that improved the situation. And sure enough, in both cases it did help. Blocking Rab27a was found to stop growth of a tumor, but it did still manage to spread around a little.
Targeting TRAF3IP2 proved more promising. When this gene was switched off, existing tumors shrank to levels that made them undetectable, and spread stopped completely. In fact, there was still no sign of metastasis one year after treatment.
“Our findings show that both genes play a role in breast cancer growth and metastasis,” says Reza Izadpanah, lead researcher on the study. “While targeting Rab27a delays progression of tumor growth, it fails to affect the spread of tiny amounts of cancer cells, or micrometastasis. On the contrary, targeting TRAF3IP2 suppresses tumor growth and spread, and interfering with it both shrinks pre-formed tumors and prevents additional spread. This exciting discovery has revealed that TRAF3IP2 can play a role as a novel therapeutic target in breast cancer treatment.”
With such promising results out of these animal studies, the next steps for the researchers are to try to get FDA approval to begin human clinical trials.
The research was published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Source: Tulane University