Professor Craig Allred, Director of Breast Pathology at the Breast Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, USA, used a technique called microarray to discover which genes might be involved in causing ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) to progress to invasive breast cancer (IBC). Microarray studies involve using a microchip bearing thousands of known single-stranded gene fragments on its surface and incubating it with RNA from tissue samples. By seeing which gene fragments the RNA is attracted to it is possible to tell which genes are active in the tissue samples.
Prof Allred said: DCIS is very common and gives rise to most IBCs. We already know that DCIS contains many genetic defects that are responsible for its development in the first place, but we believe that there are many additional genetic defects that must occur in DCIS to cause it to progress to IBC. Identifying the important genes will be useful because finding defects in them could help doctors to predict the outcome for the patients and, more importantly, could give us targets at which we could aim treatments to prevent or suppress invasion.
Analyses of the results from the microarray studies showed that there were at least 100 individual genes which had significantly different levels of activity in DCIS and IBC, and many of these genes are known already to involve processes and pathways which could make them reasonable candidates as invasion-related genes.
Prof Allred said: I dont know whether any of the genes are truly invasion-related, but many of them are involved in biological pathways that are likely to be important in invasion. For example, several integrin genes, which are involved in making cells stick to
Contact: Emma Mason
Federation of European Cancer Societies