Malignant breast cancer cells to revert to normal with manipulation

Speaking at Experimental Biology 2004, Dr. Mina Bissell describes research showing how manipulation of the extracellular matrix (a network of fibrous and globular proteins that surrounds breast cells) of non-malignant breast cells can lead to genomic instability via oxidative damage. She describes how manipulation of the microenvironment can allow malignant breast cancer cells to revert to normal cells again. She also describes how the tissue culture of the extracellular matrix affects the cancerous cells' resistance to chemotherapy, independently of the characteristics of the malignancy itself.

Her presentation is part of the scientific program of the American Association of Anatomists, one of the six sponsoring societies of this year's Experimental Biology meeting.

Dr. Bissell, a Distinguished Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, is best known as the researcher who uncovered the critical role of extracellular matrix (ECM) in normal breast function and how its aberration may contribute to breast cancer development. While the role of ECM during embryonic development had been recognized for decades, its important role in tissue-specific function was not appreciated before the work in a handful of laboratories including Dr. Bissell's laboratory. In fact, ECM was regarded as scaffolding for tissues and not much more.

Dr. Bissell postulated in 1981, and later showed experimentally, that the ECM was part of a "dynamic reciprocity" in the social interaction between cells and the nucleus much like hormones and growth factors, with the ECM at times telling the nucleus of the cells what to do and thus directing gene expression in conjunction with these other factors. She had chosen the breast to study the critical role of the ECM in normal breast tissue, a model she had selected because it continues to change throughout life of women in puberty, pregnancy, lactation, and once breast feeding is done (involution). In some of their earliest

Contact: Sarah Goodwin
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

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