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New biomarker predicts effectiveness of breast cancer drugs

CINCINNATIUniversity of Cincinnati (UC) researchers have identified a new way to predict when anti-estrogen drug therapies are inappropriate for patients with hormone-dependent breast cancer.

The teams leader, Erik Knudsen, PhD, says the findings could help physicians more accurately predict which tumors will respond to anti-estrogen therapy and improve long-term survival for breast cancer patients.

If we know upfront that a patients cancer will resist traditional anti-estrogen therapies, Knudsen says, physicians can immediately begin treating the patient with alternative drugs that are more likely to succeed.

The UC researchers found that when a pathway controlling cell growth known as the retinoblastoma (RB) tumor suppressor is disrupted or shut off, the tumor resists anti-estrogen drugs and the cancer continues to grow in spite of the therapy. They report their findings in the January edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Anti-estrogen drugs such as tamoxifen (Novaldex) are a standard treatment for hormone-dependent breast cancer. They work by blocking the estrogen action, which is required for the proliferation of most breast cancers. Although these drugs are effective in the beginning, says Knudsen, many patients who initially respond to this treatment eventually develop a resistance to it.

Since evidence shows anti-estrogen drugs will fail in a many patients with estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer, says Knudsen, our research suggests that physicians should examine both estrogen receptor status and RB tumor suppressor status during the initial diagnosis, in order to prescribe the most effective therapy for that specific patients cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, about two-thirds of women with breast cancer have estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer, in which tumor growth is regulated by the natural female hormone estrogen. Previous research has shown that es
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Contact: Amanda Harper
amanda.harper@uc.edu
513-558-4657
University of Cincinnati
7-Dec-2006


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