Molecule could be clue to better breast cancer prognosis, study shows

Prognosis for women with breast cancer could be better predicted by focusing on a specific molecule in a patient's tumour, according to research.

Prognosis for women with breast cancer could be better predicted by focusing on a specific molecule in a patient's tumour, according to research.

It is hoped that the study, led by scientists at Nottingham Trent University, could help bring an end to unnecessary and aggressive treatments for women with the disease who already have a good chance of survival.

The work, reported in the journal PLOS ONE, may lead to finding more effective, appropriate and targeted therapeutic treatments for individual women, without the need for intensive radiotherapy or chemotherapy, the scientists say.

The team, which also involved experts from Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, focused on the DACH1 protein, which is known to repress tumour growth in breast cancer – the most common cancer in females and the third most common cause of cancer-related death in the UK.

The scientists had used an artificial neural network, or computational model, to identify protein biomarkers for breast cancer linked to oestrogen receptor-associated tumours, which account for the largest proportion of women with the disease.

DACH1 was found to have a very strong influence and association with oestrogen receptor cancer biomarkers, making it a prime candidate for investigating its role as a prognostic marker.

The study involved investigating DACH1's significance in predicting breast cancer survival by assessing its levels in breast cancer tissue.

And it was found that those with higher levels of the protein had lower grade tumours, a better chance of cancer-specific survival, longer disease-free intervals and lower rates of tumour reoccurrence in the five years after diagnosis.

The researchers believe the study could have implications for the development of more personal approaches to treating breast cancer – a very diverse disease – and lead to more appropriate treatments for individuals.

"Cancer is personal, it's not a 'one size fits all'," said Professor Graham Ball, a scientist in Nottingham Trent University's John van Geest Cancer Research Centre.

He added: "We have found that the molecule DACH1 sits at the centre of a lot of important disease pathways and has been found to be a very good prognostic biomarker and predictor of patient survival.

"If we can predict that some women would survive for many years based on surgery alone, they would not need to undergo unnecessary and aggressive treatments such as chemotherapy, which are more suited to those with poor prognosis.

"Other forms of treatment may be of greater benefit to those with good prognosis." 

Dr Des Powe, a principal researcher in the Department of Cellular Pathology at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "Personalised medicine remains a key objective in cancer treatment and will be advanced by novel approaches that sift out the important genes, such as ours, that drive an individual's tumour growth."

The study also involved the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in the US and Mansoura University in Egypt.

  • Notes for editors

    Press enquiries please contact Dave Rogers, Head of Communications, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8782, or via email.

    View the journal paper, DACH1: Its Role as a Classifier of Long Term Good Prognosis in Luminal Breast Cancer .

    Nottingham Trent University’s John van Geest Cancer Research Centre is a unique purpose-built scientific facility. Its aim is to save lives and speed recovery by improving the early diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

    The centre focuses on two key approaches to the treatment of patients with cancer:

    • Improving the diagnosis and management of breast and prostate cancers
    • Developing effective vaccines and immunotherapies that will significantly improve the survival rates and quality of life for cancer sufferers.

    Visit the John van Geest Cancer Research Centre website to find out more about its work, or to make a donation towards its vital scientific research.

Molecule could be clue to better breast cancer prognosis, study shows

Published on 10 January 2014
  • Category: Press office; Research; School of Science and Technology

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