PORTRAITS OF HUMAN BREAST TUMOURS
Tumours are as varied as the individuals they afflict, suggests one of two studies investigating breast cancer this week [Nature, Vol. 406, Issue 6797, August 17, 2000]. David Botstein of Stanford University School of Medicine, California, and colleagues used microarray (‘biochip’) technology to analyse the expression of more than 8,000 genes from diverse breast cancer samples. This gives a snapshot of tumour gene activity - a ‘molecular portrait’ - showing how genetic regulation is related to disease and how clinical treatment affects gene regulation.
Most importantly, the work allows a rough ‘taxonomy’ of tumours - classifying them according to genes whose activity is substantially altered. The results could allow more detailed characterization and diagnosis of human breast cancer.
In the second study, Susette C. Mueller of Georgetown University Medical School, Washington DC, and colleagues investigate an enzyme that seems to have a central role in guarding epithelial cells against tumour formation. This enzyme (Syk) is commonly found in normal breast tissue, benign breast lesions and low-tumorigenic breast cancer cell lines, but is low or undetectable in invasive breast carcinoma tissue.
Mueller and colleagues find that introducing Syk genes to a Syk-deficient breast cancer cell line inhibits tumour growth. Conversely, overexpressing crippled Syk enzymes in a breast cancer cell line increases tumour incidence and growth. This makes Syk a potential tumour suppressor in human breast carcinomas, they propose.
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