Geneticists have identified a gene that promotes aggressive breast cancer by altering the behaviour of more than 1,000 other genes within tumour cells. What's more, they find that knocking out this 'kingpin' gene causes the cancer cells to stop their runaway proliferation.
The gene, called SATB1, already known to be expressed in breast tumours, is a key factor in the process of metastasis - the spread of cancerous cells to other locations in the body - report Terumi Kohwi-Shigematsu and co-workers in Nature. In mouse models, they found that disrupting SATB1 stops cancer cells from dividing and spreading. Conversely, deliberately expressing this gene in cancer cells causes them to form very aggressive tumours.
This is consistent with SATB1's normal role in the cell, as an 'organizer' of other genes, the researchers add. Aggressive tumours therefore form when this gene is overactivated, and the 'mob' of growth-promoting genes that it controls begins to run amok.
Terumi Kohwi-Shigematsu (Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA)
(C) Nature press release.
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