Cancer genetics researchers at Otago University said on Friday their research showed that the key genetic mutation underlying familial stomach and lobular breast cancers also opened them to attack through drug therapies targeting cellular mechanisms, Xinhua news agency reported.

Currently, the lack of treatments meant surgical removal was often used as a preventive measure in people identified as carrying the mutated gene that causes the cancers.

Study leader Parry Guilford said the team used genomic screening to search for vulnerabilities in the cancer cells that lack the tumour-suppressor protein, E-cadherin, which was often lost because of a genetic mutation.E-cadherin was not a traditional drug target for these forms of cancer because the protein was present in healthy cells, but absent in malignant ones, Guilford said.

After conducting a genome-wide screening of non-malignant human breast cells with and without E-cadherin loss, they identified a large number of vulnerabilities that could be targeted by existing drug compounds.

The researchers screened selected drug classes known to interfere with these proteins, and found that the E-cadherin-lacking cells proved highly sensitive to many of the compounds while their normal counterparts did not.

"Making such drug treatments a reality would mean delaying or completely avoiding the trauma that high-risk individuals experience by undergoing major preventive surgery at a young age," said Guilford.


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