Melbourne: Scientists claim to have made a major breakthrough in breast cancer research, by identifying a protein which plays a key role in influencing the severity of the growth of tumours.
A team, led by Clare Fedele of Monash University, has discovered the levels of the protein, inositol polyphosphate 4-phosphatase-II (INPP4B), in tumours determine the severity of breast cancer in women.
Fedele said: "We looked at a specific subtype of aggressive breast cancer and found that in about 90 per cent of these types of almost untreatable tumours, INPP4B was gone.
"This particular subtype of aggressive tumour doesn`t usually respond to treatments such as Tamoxifin. But knowing the correlation between the amount of INPP4B protein and the cancer means we can at least consider treatment alternatives."
The scientists have also devised a new antibody which could identify the protein and measure its presence in breast cancer tissue. "We created an antibody to INPP4B, which works by specifically detecting the protein in biopsies from breast cancer patient samples," Fedele said.
The laboratory testing was carried out on almost 400 human breast cancer tissue samples and has taken over four years to complete.
However, the scientists said that treatment options were not as simple as increasing the protein.
"Recreating proteins is scientifically still a little way off. But we are a step closer to identifying how drugs could be designed to specifically target the pathway that is controlled by INPP4B.
"Understanding why some breast cancers are more aggressive than others will help us develop more effective and personalised treatments in the future," said Fedele, whose findings are to be published in the `PNAS` journal.