Research team investigates mutated gene's role in breast cancer

August 9, 2010, Kansas State University

A microscopic gene may play a gigantic role when it comes to cancerous tissue in the human body, according to one Kansas State University research team.

The team is investigating mutation within the ADAM12 gene of the A Disintegrin and Metalloprotease family, or ADAM family, and its role in breast .

"We want to know whether ADAM12 is a good guy or a bad guy in ," said Anna Zolkiewska, associate professor of biochemistry and research team leader.

If researchers can answer this question about ADAM12, Zolkiewska said it could lead to more effective therapies and treatments due to a better understanding of cancer's components. This, however, hinges on discovering the exact nature of ADAM12, about which little is known. Research has uncovered some interesting information -- and raised more questions, Zolkiewska said.

"Typically human cells have very little ADAM12 protein, but the abundance is suddenly very high in cancer tissue," she said. "When we look even closer, we find a very high level of ADAM12 expression in what we call cancer . Those cells are the most vicious as they drive the tumor growth."

Although chemotherapy and radiotherapy kill tumors, they are ineffective on the cancer stem cells, Zolkiewska said. Without being surgically removed from the body, the stem cells will grow another tumor over the course of a few years. This again raises the question as to the role of ADAM12.

"Is it helping that tumor re-grow or is it trying to prevent it?" Zolkiewska asks.

Perhaps the most perplexing question the team hopes to solve is why the ADAM12 gene mutates inside cancer tissue.

"Mutation means that one letter in the DNA within the cell has changed," Zolkiewska said. "This is very striking because there are only a handful of human genes that are changed that way in tumors. ADAM12 is one of those genes and the only one among that family."

Zolkiewska said this raises the questions of whether the gene's mutation in cancer tissue is purely a coincidence or is part of a larger role. Prior research by the team indicates ADAM12 is a "good guy" since mutation to the gene effectively kills ADAM12 protein.

"A tumor wants to grow, and from the point of view of the tumor, you want to invade and kill the patient. So you will first take care of those good guys, or those policemen inside the body who protect the patient," Zolkiewska said. "If ADAM12 is one of those good guys, the growing wants to take it out of the picture."

This discovery of mutation rendering ADAM12 dead was a scientific first by the K-State team.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

New approach attacks 'undruggable' cancers from the outside in

January 23, 2018
Cancer researchers have made great strides in developing targeted therapies that treat the specific genetic mutations underlying a patient's cancer. However, many of the most common cancer-causing genes are so central to ...

Study: Cells of three advanced cancers die with drug-like compounds that reverse chemo failure

January 23, 2018
Researchers at Southern Methodist University have discovered three drug-like compounds that successfully reverse chemotherapy failure in three of the most commonly aggressive cancers—ovarian, prostate and breast.

Scientists block the siren call of two aggressive cancers

January 23, 2018
Aggressive cancers like glioblastoma and metastatic breast cancer have in common a siren call that beckons the bone marrow to send along whatever the tumors need to survive and thrive.

'Hijacker' drives cancer in some patients with high-risk neuroblastoma

January 23, 2018
Researchers have identified mechanisms that drive about 10 percent of high-risk neuroblastoma cases and have used a new approach to show how the cancer genome "hijacks" DNA that regulates other genes. The resulting insights ...

Enzyme inhibitor combined with chemotherapy delays glioblastoma growth

January 23, 2018
In animal experiments, a human-derived glioblastoma significantly regressed when treated with the combination of an experimental enzyme inhibitor and the standard glioblastoma chemotherapy drug, temozolomide.

Researchers identify a protein that keeps metastatic breast cancer cells dormant

January 23, 2018
A study headed by ICREA researcher Roger Gomis at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) has identified the genes involved in the latent asymptomatic state of breast cancer metastases. The work sheds light ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.