The Role of Genetic Biomarkers in Cancer Progression

Research may help to target which patients will respond to specific chemotherapy drugs.

Research may help to target which patients will respond to specific chemotherapy drugs.

Researchers at Cedars-Sinai have identified a novel genetic biomarker responsible for the progression of many breast and prostate cancers. The finding could improve efforts to better identify patients who respond to certain types of chemotherapy drugs that attack the most aggressive forms of cancer.

“Understanding and identifying biomarkers is a vital step toward cancer research and care,” said Michael Freeman, PhD, vice chair of research in the Cedars-Sinai Department of Surgery, and lead author of the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The newly identified biomarker, called diaphanous, related formin-3 or DIAPH3, acts in a protein interaction that makes cells rigid. The study found that when diaphanous is lost or lowered, cells become “deformable,” squeezing through tissue spaces to cause the disease to grow and progress. This squeezing is known as an amoeboid phenotype.

Researchers can utilize the new information to identify which patients will respond to common the chemotherapy drugs taxanes. Taxanes act by damaging protein structures in cancer cells.

This was the first study of its kind to identify a targeting strategy for tumor cells that exhibit amoeboid properties.

The goal is to improve the effectiveness of cancer therapies by customizing treatment plans for individuals based on the new genetic information by identifying cancer biomarkers, according to Shlomo Melmed, MD, senior vice president of Academic Affairs and director of the Burns and Allen Research Institute. The new approach avoids tackling cancer treatments with a one-size-fits-all ideation.

The next steps involve developing a biomarker tool that will allow researchers to test these findings prospectively in patients.