How Genetics Could Decrease Breast Cancer Survival

Genetic mechanisms could potentially promote cancer growth and spread.

In a recent study, researchers discovered a pair of genes that could potentially decrease breast cancer survival.

Patients whose tumors showed a pattern activity in these genes were 3 times as likely to die within 10 years, compared with patients whose tumors had a different pattern, according to a study published by Oncotarget.

Researchers discovered a pattern of gene activity among breast cancer cells with the ability to escape from the extracellular matrix, promoting the spread of the cells. The 2 genes could potentially cause these breast cancer cells to spread, according to the study.

“Survival rates for breast cancer are now much higher than they were a few decades ago, but the disease remains deadly once it has spread round the body. Our study sheds light on how cancer cells unstick themselves from healthy tissue, and it could help pick out women at high risk of their cancer spreading and becoming fatal,” said lead researcher Paul Huang, PhD. “We found that the activity of 2 genes which may help control how tightly cells are glued together is linked to breast cancer survival. If the results are confirmed in larger studies, it could give us a new way of assessing women's survival chances in the clinic, and adjusting treatment accordingly.”

Researchers analyzed breast cancer cells that were positive for HER2 and created a novel screening technique to identify cells that do not stick to laminin, a protein that binds cells to the extracellular matrix, according to the study. They discovered that these cells have a high F12 activity and low STC2 activity in 1964 breast cancers.

It was also found that patients whose tumors had this activity had a 31% chance of dying within 10 years. Patients who had tumors with low F12 and high STC2 activity only have a 10% chance of dying during this time, according to the study.

However, researchers note that additional research is needed to fully understand how these genes interfere with the extracellular matrix and lead to cancer spread, the study concluded.