Newly created cancer stem cells could aid breast cancer research

In some ways, certain tumors resemble bee colonies, says pathologist Tan Ince. Each cancer cell in the tumor plays a specific role, and just a fraction of the cells serve as “queens,” possessing the unique ability to maintain themselves in an unspecialized state and seed new tumors. These cells can also divide and produce the “worker” cells that form the bulk of the tumor.

These “queens” are cancer stem cells. Now the lab of Whitehead Member Robert Weinberg has created such cells in a Petri dish by isolating and transforming a particular population of cells from human breast tissue. After being injected with just 100 of these transformed cells, mice developed tumors that metastasized (spread to distant tissues).

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Gene profiling predicts resistance to breast cancer drug Herceptin

Using gene chips to profile tumors before treatment, researchers at Harvard and Yale Universities found markers that identified breast cancer subtypes resistant to Herceptin, the primary treatment for HER2-positive breast cancer. They say this advance could help further refine therapy for the 25 to 30 percent of breast cancer patients with this class of tumor.

In the February 15 issue of Clinical Cancer Research, the researchers found that HER2-positive tumors that did not respond to Herceptin expressed certain basal markers, growth factors and growth factor receptors. One of these, insulin-growth factor receptor 1(IGF-1R), was associated with a Herceptin response rate that was half that of tumors that did not express IGF-1R.
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‘Bridge’ protein spurs deadliest stages of breast cancer

A protein known for its ability to “bridge” interactions between other cellular proteins may spur metastasis in breast cancer, the disease’s deadliest stage, a study from Burnham Institute for Medical Research has found.
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New studies back vitamin D for cancer prevention

Two new vitamin D studies using a sophisticated form of analysis called meta-analysis, in which data from multiple reports is combined, have revealed new prescriptions for possibly preventing up to half of the cases of breast cancer and two-thirds of the cases of colorectal cancer in the United States.
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‘Cancer prognosis gene’ found to control the fate of breast cells

The gene, called GATA-3, is in a family of genes that guides development of stem cells into mature cells. University of California, San Francisco researchers have now found that GATA-3 is also required for mature mammary cells to remain mature in the adult. In research focusing on mice mammary glands, they found that without GATA-3, mature cells revert to a less specialized, “undifferentiated” state characteristic of aggressive cancer.

The new finding suggests that this gene may play a key role in the development of breast cancer, the scientists report in the December 1 issue of the journal CELL.
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First disease-specific (breast cancer) protein library opens new drug paths

In research that could significantly advance the pace of drug discovery in the fight against breast cancer, Harvard Medical School investigators announce in today’s online Journal of Proteome Research that they have created the first publicly available library of reliably expressible proteins of a human disease, in this case for breast cancer.

Perhaps more significantly, these researchers expressed a subset of the 1,300 protein-expressing complementary DNAs in the library into a model system mimicking cells of a human breast, allowing them to study on a broad scale how these proteins might contribute to the development of breast cancer. Through this comprehensive approach, they identified potentially novel functional activities for both well known and lesser-known breast cancer-associated proteins.
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Rare breast stem cell drives formation of breast tissue and may also lead to tumours

Scientists from The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, using a mouse model, have discovered the rare stem cell that drives the formation of all breast tissue. This discovery lays an important foundation for understanding how normal breast tissue develops. The identification of the breast stem cell is also likely to provide clues about how breast cancer develops and how rogue cells evade current therapies.

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