Breast cancer is linked to new RCP gene

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Researchers in Singapore have identified a gene, which they call RCP (or RAB11FIP1) that they found in a group of breast cancer patients who had experienced recurrence of the disease. The investigators note that the gene is frequently prominent in breast cancer and is linked to aggressive breast cancer behavior.

According to the American Cancer Society, the probability ofa woman developing breast cancer within the next ten years is 1 out of 229 by age 30, 1 out of 68 by age 40, and 1 out of 26 by age 60. Although breast cancer is less common among younger women (i.e., those in their thirties), the breast cancer tends to be more aggressive when it develops in younger women than in older women. This appears to be the reason why survival rates are lower among younger women who get the disease.

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In this latest study, the researchers stimulated non-cancerous breast cells with the RCP gene and found that the gene promoted movement or migration. This activity is a precursor to the ability of tumors to metastasize - spread to tissues in other areas in the body.

The scientists also noted that when RCP is over-expressed in breast cancer cells, it becomes more aggressive, resulting in faster proliferation of breast cancer cells and increased migration. When the researchers essentially “turned off” the RCP gene, the ability of the cells to develop into tumors and migrate to other organs was greatly reduced.

The study’s authors hope that this discovery, along with others, will allow them to find effective therapeutic strategies to stop the RCP gene and other genes that drive breast cancer.

Sources: American Cancer Society
Zhang J et al. Journal of Clinical Investigation, July 20, 2009.

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