A key ingredient that breast cancers use to grow and spread into other parts of the body could lead to the identification of a targeted drug for difficult to treat cancers such as triple negative breast cancer.
It could also provide a way to identify which women are more likely to develop these often fatal diseases.
“Our investigation of a protein called Pez (or PTPN14) has confirmed that it is expressed less or in a mutated form in highly aggressive breast cancers,” says Associate Professor Yeesim Khew-Goodall, Head of the Cell Signalling Lab in the Centre for Cancer Biology at SA Pathology and UniSA.
“We know that this protein plays an important role in cancer metastasis (the spread of cancer to other organs). Through our work we also know that mutations in this protein are just one part of a complex interaction with other proteins that promotes this cancer spread.
“This work has allowed us to successfully map an entire signalling pathway that appears to also play a key role in these fast moving, aggressive breast cancers.
“Our goal is to understand exactly how these molecules are interacting to increase cancer progression and identify new therapies that can create better outcomes for these patients.
“Our work could help save the lives of cancer patients with highly aggressive, fast growing breast cancers.
“One of the most promising aspects of our discovery is that the pathway has components that are potentially “druggable”, meaning there is an essential component of the pathway that we expect to be able to devise a very specific drug for. This will be our next step.”
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