Washington: Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre have identified 16 new genes, or proteins, all involved in iron metabolism, that provide better prognostic information about breast cancer than conventional, standard markers of prognosis.
The discovery brings them one step closer to being able to better predict which patients have the best chance of surviving breast cancer.
The researchers looked at 61 genes involved in iron regulation to see how many of them were related to breast cancer prognosis and found that almost half were.
They next narrowed those genes down even further to a subset of 16 that are most closely associated with prognosis.
“Ferroportin and hepcidin aren’t the only iron-regulating genes playing a role in breast cancer,” said Frank Torti, M.D., MPH, director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest Baptist and senior investigator of the study.
“As it turns out, many iron genes are associated with breast cancer outcomes. These 16, we’ve discovered, convey the most valuable information,” he stated.
Within this group of 16 genes, called the Iron Regulatory Gene Signature, Torti and colleagues found that there are several pairings, called dyads, which work together to regulate iron in a cell.
Ferroportin and hepcidin, the original gene dyad they found, control iron export. Now, they have found that an additional pair of genes that control iron import, called transferrin receptor and HFE, is also important.
Understanding how changes in those relationships affect breast cancer prognosis is the focus of the team’s future research.