May 2003
Article Features
  Childbearing Influences Breast Cancer Risk in African-American Women
Research May Lead to New Breast Cancer Detection Methods
Study Questions Short Follow-Up Intervals For 'Probably Benign' Mammographic Finding
Decision Tool Benefits Women Considering Adjuvant Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer
Studying the Possible Environmental Causes of Cancer
Study Confirms Value of Family-History Knowledge for Young Women with Breast Cancer
Possible Early Gene Involved in the Development of Cancer is Discovered
Treating Chronic Insomnia in Cancer Patients
Study Demonstrates That Low Dose Tamoxifen May Be Effective in Treating Breast Cancer
Most Women Say Mammography is Only Mildly Painful
Underserved Minorities Face Unequal Burden of Cancer
Researchers Discover New Breast Cancer Gene
New Study Set to Help Women at High Risk of Breast or Ovarian Cancer
Epilepsy Drug May Help Alleviate Cancer Pain
Discovery of How Prolactin Travels to Gene's Machinery Helps Explain its Role in Breast Cancer
Proteomics Research Aids Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment
Sonography for Detecting Breast Cancer in Young Women
Major Study Suggests "Squirting" As Key to Cancer's Spread
NCI Study Estimates More Than 2 Million Women Could Benefit from Tamoxifen
Hypothyroidism Associated with Reduced Breast Cancer

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Scientists Identify Molecular Link Between Estrogen Receptors and Invasive Growth in Breast Cancer

Emory University and Winship Cancer Institute scientists have discovered a link between estrogen receptors -- the molecules that bind the estrogen hormone to cells -- and invasive growth of breast cancer. The finding could help explain the mechanisms leading to breast cancer progression and could have important consequences for drugs that are aimed at blocking estrogen receptors. The research is published in the journal Cell.

Estrogen receptors regulate normal breast cell growth and development. The presence or absence of estrogen receptors in breast cancer patients is a critical prognostic indicator of breast cancer progression. Approximately 70% of breast tumors contain estrogen receptors and are dependent on estrogen for their growth. These breast cancers -- called "estrogen receptor positive" tumors -- are routinely treated or prevented by a class of drugs known as selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMS), including drugs such as tamoxifen, which block the estrogen receptors. Breast tumors lacking estrogen receptors -- called "estrogen receptor negative" tumors -- are not affected by estrogen antagonist drugs, and thus generally have a much less favorable prognosis.

In seeking the genetic alterations that cause breast cancers to lose their dependence on estrogen receptors for growth (becoming estrogen receptor negative), the Emory scientists discovered that a protein called MTA3 is part of an estrogen-dependent pathway that regulates the expression of other "downstream" molecules, including the cell adhesion molecule called E-cadherin. Cell adhesion molecules are responsible for maintaining normal cellular structure, and the loss or underexpression of these molecules has been associated with invasive growth of breast cancer.

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