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Scientists discover scaramanga gene's bond with breast cancer

Breakthrough Breast Cancer today announce that UK scientists have discovered that a gene named after the James Bond villain Scaramanga can trigger the development of breasts. This has important implications for breast cancer, as reported in the journal Genes and Development.

During the development of an embryo, formation of organs is tightly controlled by specific genes. In the case of breasts, this process controls the development of two breasts in humans but this can go awry, resulting in fewer, extra or misplaced breasts or nipples. However, little has been known about this how this process is governed, until now.

Today scientists at The Breakthrough Toby Robins Breast Cancer Research Centre, at The Institute of Cancer Research, report that a gene called Scaramanga aptly named after the three-nippled villain from the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun is involved in triggering breast development.

"Identifying the Scaramanga gene is a real advance in our understanding of the early steps in breast formation. By learning more about this gene and the protein it produces, it will allow us to determine how normal breast development is initiated and, importantly, examine how this is connected with breast cancer," said Professor Alan Ashworth, Director of The Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre.

By studying abnormal breast development in the lab, scientists at The Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre identified the Scaramanga gene, which regulates the early stages of breast development, and influences the number and position of breasts. The realisation of the importance of their work came when they discovered that the Scaramanga gene produces a protein called NRG3 and that this provides a signal telling embryonic cells to become breast cells. They also showed that a synthetic form of NRG3 was able to initiate the formation of breast cells, confirming the protein's involvement in this intricate process.


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Contact: Emma Sheppard
emmas@breakthrough.org.uk
44-207-025-2432
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
31-Aug-2005


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