Genetic Marker Finding May Help Predict Breast Cancer Recurrence
Researchers at Jefferson Medical College (JMC) have found a biological marker that may help predict the return of breast cancer in some women.
The scientists, led by Bruce Turner, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology, JMC, found larger amounts of a damaged anticancer gene, p53, and its protein, in tissue of women whose breast cancer returned within four years after diagnosis than in those women whose cancer did not return.
The finding may affect the types of treatments offered such women who are at greater risk for their cancer coming back. Dr. Turner and his colleagues at Jefferson and Yale University School of Medicine reported their work in the journal Cancer.
For an average of more than 14 years, Dr. Turner and his group followed a group of patients with early stage breast cancer who were treated with surgery and radiation.
Genetic change may require preventive therapies
"The results provide the first evidence in humans that p53 gene changes are also associated with poor responses to radiation therapy treatments," says Dr. Turner.
The p53 gene, a so-called "tumor suppressor," normally helps prevent cancer cells from taking hold. It is important in controlling cell growth, and regulates the actions of many other genes as well. It plays a critical role in cell death.
With the completion of the sequencing of the human genome now two or three years away, Dr. Turner says, studies to determine the best cancer therapies based on specific genetic changes will be critical. In breast cancer, for example, specific radiation and chemotherapy treatments will be determined by certain genetic changes involving perhaps 10,000 to 20,000 genes. "Both pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms are investing heavily in the field of pharma-cogenetics with the eventual hope of translating specific genetic changes -- which will become easily identifiable -- into rational therapeutics for all diseases including cancer," he says.