Wistar Scientists Identify New Tumor Suppressor Gene For Breast And Lung Cancer

Philadelphia, PA, March 1, 1998 -- Scientists at The Wistar Institute, working in collaboration with researchers from around the world, have identified a new gene, called BAP1, associated with breast and lung cancer development. The group's findings, which may have major implications for the treatment of breast and lung cancers, appear in today's issue of Oncogene.

BAP1, discovered in the Wistar laboratory of Dr. Frank J. Rauscher III, encodes an enzyme that helps to regulate levels of BRCA1, a gene known to cause hereditary breast and ovarian cancers.

Three years ago, scientists in Utah identified the BRCA1 gene, which was a landmark accomplishment in cancer research. The discovery of BRCA1 made it possible to genetically test for carriers of the gene. When a faulty BRCA1 gene is inherited, a woman's chances of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer are greater than 80 percent during her lifetime.

Since BRCA1's discovery, scientists around the world have been working feverishly to discover the functions of the BRCA1 protein. Proteins, the main ingredients in cells, have shapes and functions that are genetically defined.

With a clear understanding of the role BRCA1 plays in normal breast development, scientists can better explain how mutations of the BRCA1 gene might alter that process. Laboratory studies have revealed that BRCA1 and BAP1 form a complex in the cell that controls BRCA1's activities, including its deterioration.

The Wistar investigators have also learned that, like BRCA1, the BAP1 gene is a cancer gene. Mutations of BAP1 have been found in non-small-cell lung cancers.

BAP1 and BRCA1 are both tumor suppressor gene products that appear to be part of a large complex that controls the growth of breast and lung epithelial cells. Mutations in either BAP1 or BRCA1 abolish this complex and lead to the development of cancer.

The discovery of BAP1 makes it possible to do genetic testing for its presence, making it

Contact: Diana Cutshall
dcutshall@wista. wistar.upenn.edu
(215) 898-3716
The Wistar Institute

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