Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and is responsible for over 400,000 deaths annually in women throughout the world. Most of these deaths are the result of aggressive breast tumors that often fail to respond to current treatments.
The researchers found that women whose breast tumors express the alphaB-crystallin protein have a shorter survival, suggesting that alphaB-crystallin may be a useful molecular marker to identify women with aggressive breast cancer and to develop new targeted cancer therapies.
The study, which was published in the January issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, was led by Vincent L. Cryns, M.D., associate professor of medicine and director of the Cell Death Regulation Laboratory at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and a researcher at The Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.
Cryns and colleagues found that introducing the alphaB-crystallin gene into non-cancerous breast cells transformed them into breast cancer cells. These experiments took advantage of a powerful technique to grow breast cells as three-dimensional (3D) gland-like structures that are similar to those present in the normal breast. However, when the researchers introduced alphaB-crystallin into non-cancerous breast cells, the cells started growing uncontrollably and formed enlarged 3D masses that resemble breast tumors.
The experiments were conducted by Jose V. Moyano, a post-doctoral fellow in the Cryns lab, who was lead author on the study.
"Basically, breast cancer cells have hijacked alphaB-crystallin, a protein that normally protects cells against stress injury and death, and used it to promote their uncontrolled
Contact: Elizabeth Crown