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Breast cancer study may lead to new drugs

Latest research on breast cancer offers clearer understanding of the complex processes involving the genetic link to secondary tumours

The latest research on breast cancer offers clearer understanding of the complex processes involving the genetic link to secondary tumours and provides insight into how to prevent microRNA molecules from 'switching off'.

Researchers from Imperial College London and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in the US have identified a range of microRNA strands that were affected by oestrogen. Amongst the findings, they have confirmed that production of the mir-17-92 cluster of microRNAs was being switched off by oestrogen.

It is hoped that a drug can now be developed to prevent microRNAs being 'turned off'.

Dr Justin Stebbings, senior lecturer and consultant medical oncologist at Imperial College London said: “There are no available drugs as yet but they should be available within a couple of years. This is a a step on the way to it [a potential cure] and it helps us understand the way breast cancer cells grow and divide and if we understand this then we understand how to stop it.

"The way to cure breast cancer," he added, "is by fundamental biological understanding of what turns cells on and off, stopping the way tumours grow. We can use these microRNAs as a new treatment and make them do what current drugs don't do."

Previous studies by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have shown that the abnormal activation of four genes drives the spread of breast cancer, while researchers at the Institute have also identified three genes that work together to fuel the spread of breast cancer to the brain, and 18 genes associated with its spread to the lungs.

26th August 2009

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