Researchers part-funded by Breast Cancer Now at the University of Birmingham have found that a type of protein could hold the secret to suppressing the growth of breast cancer tumours.

Tuesday 13 June 2017      Research
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The research, published today in Oncogenesis, examined the role Proline-Rich Homeodomain protein (PRH) can play in the progression of breast cancer tumours and could, in turn, help to better determine the prognosis for patients with the disease.

The researchers used a special staining process on breast cancer tissue removed during biopsy to observe the levels and location of PRH proteins in breast cancer cells, and found that there were changes in PRH proteins in tumour samples compared to samples from normal breast tissue.

In the lab, they found that that the loss of PRH helped breast cancer cells multiply faster, and conversely, that overproduction of PRH slowed down the growth of tumours in mice.

Finally, by studying a large database from hundreds of patients, they showed that decreased activity of the PRH gene in tumours could indicate a higher risk of recurrence.

Dr Richard Berks, Research Communications Manager at Breast Cancer Now, which helped to fund the study, said:

“These interesting findings suggest that PRH could be used as a marker of prognosis in breast cancer patients.

“PRH has been a protein of interest in cancer research for some time, with debate around whether it may be helping or hindering breast cancer growth. This now provides evidence that PRH is involved in suppressing the progression of breast tumours.

“Understanding the role of this protein could be important in helping improve treatments, but more work is now needed before this knowledge can be used to benefit patients.

“Ultimately, anything that could help doctors tailor treatments to the make-up of tumours will help give patients the best chances of survival, and we look forward to further research in this important area.”

The study, led by Dr Padma Sheela Jayaraman at the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences, was part-funded by Breast Cancer Now, Cancer Research UK and the Medical Research Council.