UPMC researchers solving treatment resistance in most common breast cancer
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PITTSBURGH, Feb. 7, 2018 – At Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, a large team of clinical and laboratory researchers dedicated to understanding treatment resistance in the most common form of breast cancer have identified a new genetic change in the estrogen receptor (ER) that contributes to therapy resistance. ER-positive breast cancer, diagnosed in two-thirds of breast cancer patients, is fueled by the presence of estrogen in the body. Anti-estrogen therapy is usually successful in treating the disease initially, but ER-positive breast cancers will often recur because tumors develop a resistance to treatment.

Published in the Annals of Oncology, the research identifies the presence of ER gene (ESR1) fusion proteins in treatment-resistant breast cancer. This is the first time that recurrent ESR1 fusion proteins have been identified in human breast cancer, and understanding how they function could lead to improved treatments for the disease.

“We first identified this change in a patient who had ER-positive breast cancer, received anti-estrogen therapy, had her breast cancer recur and eventually passed away from the disease,” said senior author Adrian Lee, Ph.D., director of the Women’s Cancer Research Center at MWRI and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, and professor of Pharmacology

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