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Breast cancer can be reversed in laboratory mice, scientists report

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- Breast cancer researchers have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to block genetic switches in mice that turn cancer on and off -- thus preventing and even reversing breast cancer in the animals. The findings, reported Sunday morning at the 24th Congress of the International Association for Breast Cancer Research, suggest potential new molecular targets for drugs to prevent and potentially eradicate breast cancer in humans.

"It's enormously gratifying," said conference director Robert Cardiff, professor of pathology at UC Davis School of Medicine and Medical Center and an author of the research. "Our findings suggest paths forward that may help us alter the biological path of breast cancer and more successfully treat -- and even potentially prevent -- this cancer in humans."

In new research reported by a team of scientists from Canada, Switzerland and UC Davis, investigators demonstrated that removing a single gene known as beta-1 integrin prevented or halted breast cancer growth in laboratory mice. Beta-1 integrin is a principal regulator of normal breast tissue growth and survival, but if the gene malfunctions, it can directly initiate breast tumors. The new work demonstrates that knocking out the beta-1 integrin gene prevents cancer-prone mice from developing breast tumors, and halts further tumor growth in mice that have already developed breast cancer.

"This study shows that it is absolutely essential to have the beta-1 integrin gene present in order for mammary gland tumors to develop. We now have a good target for biological drug development, and the challenge is to develop an agent that can block its activity," said William J. Muller, professor of biochemistry at McGill University in Montreal and a lead investigator of the study.

In a related presentation, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania reported on a series of experiments using a novel mouse model of human breast cancer, one tha
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Contact: Claudia Morain
cmmorain@ucdavis.edu
916-762-9855
University of California, Davis - Health System
2-Nov-2003


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