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'Fox' gene hope for women

Monday December 13th, 2010

British scientists have found a critical gene involved in the development of many breast cancer cases, it was announced last night.

The single gene may decide whether many women can successfully be treated with drugs such as tamoxifen.

The gene is involved in the kind of breast cancer that is fuelled by the hormone oestrogen.

The finding offers hope of finding powerful new drugs to treat this kind of cancer.

According to a report in Nature Genetics, the single gene, known as FOXA1, is responsible for controlling this process.

Dr Lesley Walker, of Cancer Research UK, which backed the research, said: “We know that some women with breast cancer stop responding to tamoxifen, making them more prone to relapsing.

"This important discovery could one day lead to new drugs that help improve the outcome for these patients."

Researcher Dr Jason Carroll, of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute, said: “We discovered that almost none of the genes normally switched on by oestrogen receptors interacting with the DNA were activated in breast cancer cells lacking FOXA1.

"Instead the oestrogen receptor was just left floating around in the cell, unable to make contact with the DNA and kick start cell growth.

“We also found that the FOXA1 protein forms an essential part of tamoxifen response in breast cancer cells, since like oestrogen, it also uses FOXA1 to interact with the DNA.

"This is exciting because it suggests that developing drugs to block FOXA1 could provide an effective treatment for women with ER positive breast cancers who have become resistant to standard hormone treatments, like tamoxifen."

FOXA1 is a key determinant of estrogen receptor function and endocrine response. Hurtado A. et al. Nature Genetics December 13 2010

Tags: Cancer | Genetics | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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