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Protein that predicts tamoxifen resistance is identified

DURHAM, N.C. -- Researchers at the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center have identified a protein that breast cancer tumors over-produce when they become resistant to the drug tamoxifen. The researchers said their finding could help them predict which tumors will benefit from tamoxifen -- the front-line drug used to treat operable breast cancer -- and which tumors won't.

Future studies will be able to determine if tumors that over-produce this protein, called MTA-1, could be treated with a different hormonal therapy following their initial treatment with surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation, said Kimberly Blackwell, M.D., assistant professor of oncology at the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Blackwell will present her team's findings on Dec. 4 at the 26th annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

Their latest findings supports last year's discovery, reported at the same annual meeting, in which Blackwell demonstrated that tamoxifen-resistant tumors actually change their cellular characteristics to become responsive to other types of drugs. Blackwell says that elevated levels of MTA-1 represent one of these cellular changes in tumors that stop responding to tamoxifen.

"MTA-1 is just one of the proteins that plays a role in tamoxifen resistance, but it is one important step toward helping us better target our therapies toward each woman's particular type of tumor," said Blackwell. "Theoretically, we could biopsy women at the time of diagnosis and select an alternative drug to tamoxifen if their tumors over-express MTA-1."

Furthermore, she said, MTA-1 is known to be a predictor of poor prognosis and the potential for breast cancer metastasis, so that testing for its presence prior to treatment could help them devise more aggressive strategies from the outset.

In years past, tamoxifen was the only option to help prevent breast cancers from recurring in women with estrogen-positive tumors, said Blackwell. But a percentage
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Contact: Becky Levine
levin005@mc.duke.edu
919-684-4148
Duke University Medical Center
4-Dec-2003


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