Gene Discovery Raises Breast Cancer Hopes

Targeted therapy may prevent lethal spread, researchers say
By Ambreen Ali,  Newser User
Posted Jan 6, 2009 5:01 PM CST
A doctor examines a breast cancer patient. MTDH may be the crucial gene that spreads breast cancer to other organs.   (Shutter stock)
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(Newser) – Researchers have singled out a gene that spreads breast cancer and makes it chemo-resistant, raising the prospect of drug therapy that localizes the disease and improves survival rates, the Baltimore Sun reports. Scientists believe that metadherin, or MTDH—found in 40% of the breast cancer patients studied—makes tumor cells sticky so they latch onto blood vessels in distant organs.

If the finding holds up, drugs can be developed to target the gene. The discovery is potentially important because localized breast cancer rarely kills. But when it spreads throughout the body, survival rates go down significantly. A cancer researcher praised the work but added a note of caution. "Biology tends to be more complicated in the body than it is in the laboratory," he said.