A gene of breast cancer with poor prognosis
The BCL11A gene is overactive in nearly eight out of ten patients with breast cancer and their presence is associated with more advanced tumor grade.
Almost one in five patients with breast cancer has the triple negative type, a type of tumor that lacks three receptor proteins (no receptors for estrogen, progesterone and HER2) responsive to hormonal therapies used for other subtypes of breast cancer and that makes their prognosis poorer than other types. So far only a few have been associated with the development of genomic aberrations, but according to a currently displayed work “Nature Communications” the presence of the BCL11A gene appears to be decisive.
The research, conducted in human and mouse cells, offers a new way to design specific treatments for this aggressive tumor. BCL11A gene is overactive in nearly eight of ten patients with basal-like breast cancer and their presence was associated with more advanced tumor grade. Furthermore, in cases where new copies of the cancer gene BCL11A were manufactured, decreased the chances of survival of the patient.
The team of researchers analyzed breast tumors almost 3,000 patients and examined changes in genes that affect the behavior of stem cells and developing tissues, because previous studies suggested that these genes, when mutated, can often lead the development of cancer. Their work clearly showed that BCL11A gene is a new driver for triple negative breast cancers.
In addition, researchers have shown that the addition of a new asset BCL11A gene to human or mouse mammary cells made them behave as tumor cells. When BCL11A activity in cell samples triple negative breast cancer was reduced some characteristics of human cancer cells were lost and these cells were less tumorigenic. That is a higher activity of BCL11A, more cancer-like behavior, and vice versa. When the gene was inactivated in mice, they did not develop tumors in the mammary gland, whereas all untreated animals did.
The results were really exciting. The scientists have identified a new gene for one of the breast cancers most difficult to treat. The study provides key information for clinical decisions and treatment options plus it will enable the search for new targeted therapies.