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'Gene discovery may help treat aggressive breast cancer'

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Press Trust of India Los angeles
Scientists say they have identified a master switch that appears to control the dynamic behaviour of tumour cells which makes some aggressive cancers so difficult to treat.
The finding, published in the journal Cancer Cell, could open new avenues for diagnosing and treating aggressive breast cancer as well as other types of intractable cancers.
The gene Sox10 directly controls the growth and invasion of a significant fraction of hard-to-treat triple-negative breast cancers, said researchers from Salk Institute in the US.
They discovered that aggressive breast cancers return to a flexible, earlier state found in foetal breast tissue.
This cellular reprogramming may be the key to cancer's ability to form new cell types, evolve drug resistance and metastasise to other locations in the body, researchers said.
"Two things that make triple-negative breast cancers so hard to treat are their heterogeneity -- they have many different cell types within a single tumour -- and their ability to move around and colonise new areas, the process of metastasis," said Geoffrey Wahl, a

professor at Salk Institute.
"It is what you could call the imprecision in precision medicine, in the sense that we might target one type of cell, but there are other cells within the tumour that can change to become drug resistant, analogous to how a chameleon changes colours to evade predators," Wahl said.
In order to develop from a single cell into a complete organism such as a mouse or human, embryonic and foetal cells have the ability to divide rapidly, move throughout the body and change into multiple different cell types --properties known as "plasticity."

However, adult cells turn off this plasticity, which, for reasons that are not fully understood, can get reawakened and turn cells cancerous.

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First Published: Aug 31 2018 | 2:35 PM IST

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