Washington: A multi-institutional team of researchers have developed a novel breast-cancer therapy that partially reverses the cancerous state in cultured breast tumor cells and prevents cancer development in mice.
The new breakthrough could one day provide a new way to treat early stages of the disease without resorting to surgery, chemotherapy or radiation.
The therapy emerged from a sophisticated effort to reverse-engineer gene networks to identify genes that drive cancer. The same strategy could lead to many new therapies that disable cancer-causing genes no current drugs can stop, and it also can be used to find therapies for other diseases.
"The findings open up the possibility of someday treating patients who have a genetic propensity for cancer, which could change people's lives and alleviate great anxiety," Don Ingber , M.D., Ph.D., Wyss Institute Founding Director said.
"The idea would be start giving it early on and sustain treatment throughout life to prevent cancer development or progression," Ingber said.
The scientists spot more than 100 genes that acted suspiciously just before milk-duct cells in the breast begin to overgrow. The team narrowed their list down to six genes that turn other genes on or off, and then narrowed it further to a single gene called HoxA1 that had the strongest statistical link to cancer.
They treated cancerous cells with a short piece of RNA called a small interfering RNA (siRNA) that blocks only the HoxA1 gene. The cells reversed their march to malignancy, stopping their runaway growth and forming hollow balls as healthy cells do.
The siRNA treatment also stopped breast cancer in a line of mice genetically engineered to have a gene that causes all of them to develop cancer.
The study is published in journal Science Translational Medicine.