Scientists Identify Potential New Target For Breast Cancer Therapy
The research appears at www.ASCO.org and www.jco.org and is entitled "Enhancer of Zeste Homologue 2 (EZH-2) expression in breast cancer: a novel marker and potential target."
Karmanos scientists tested 84 cases of hormone receptor negative human breast carcinomas and discovered that the protein EZH-2 was expressed in 74 percent of those cases. Hormone receptor negative breast carcinoma is considered an aggressive cancer and one that is hard to treat. The finding suggests that EZH-2 could be an important therapeutic target in this patient population.
"We were interested in looking at a new target," says Dr. Zeina Nahleh, M.D., co-director of the Breast Oncology Multidisciplinary Team at Karmanos Cancer Institute and assistant professor of medicine in hematology and oncology at Wayne State University School of Medicine. "We wanted to see how much expression of the protein was present. We were surprised that 74 percent of tumors expressed that EZH-2 protein."
Sixty-one samples that researchers used were triple negative breast cancer cases and 23 cases were HER-2/neu positive. Scientists found that the increased expression of EZH-2 meant an increase in tumor size and an increase in lymph node metastasis.
Dr. Nahleh says that increased identification of proteins in these aggressive forms of breast cancer is needed to develop better treatments. The discovery of the high rate of EZH-2 protein expression in breast cancer cases opens up a new avenue in doing just that.
"We are extremely excited about this discovery," she says. "This is amazing work. In the future, this could be a target for therapy."
The identification of EZH-2 represents just the first step in the mission to find more proteins that cause deadly breast cancer tumors and assess them for possible therapeutic targets. There is much work ahead, according to Dr. Nahleh.
"The ground-breaking work will come if we can identify a specific method to target this EZH-2 protein and show that this approach would lead to meaningful clinical results," she says. "We have to go back and look at survival rates. We have to consider years of follow-up work and we have to look at other associated factors.
"This will hopefully lead to new targeted therapy strategies based on our new understanding of the biology of cancer."
Dr. Nahleh says that the discovery of a potential therapeutic target wouldn't be possible without the laboratory and clinical breast cancer research at Karmanos and its collaborative partnerships.
"I think this discovery highlights the importance of multidisciplinary work in oncology between clinical and scientific researchers," she says. "This is what Karmanos is all about."
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