Breast cancer 'switch' found to turn off aggressive growth and spread

A new study details a potential breakthrough in breast cancer research and it involves what scientists refer to as a genetic 'switch.' The research comes from Tulane University where researchers discovered the gene behind the most aggressive form of breast cancer, as well as a way to 'turn off' this gene to put the brakes on cancer growth and spread.

The study focused on triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), which is described as the most aggressive form of breast cancer; it is, as you'd expect, harder to treat and has lower survival odds. The researchers looked into the role two specific genes play in TNBC called Rab27a and TRAF3IP2. When the researchers suppressed these two genes — meaning they stopped them from functioning — they found positive impacts on breast cancer.

When the TRAF3IP2 gene was switched off, the study found that breast cancer metastasis, which means spreading of cancer cells into other areas of the body, didn't take place over the next full year after the treatment. As well, the suppression of this gene was also linked to stalled tumor growth and tumor shrinkage to 'undetectable levels.'

It's important to note that these effects were observed in animal models, not humans. However, the results were described as "so compelling" that the researchers have tapped the FDA to pave the way for clinical trials. Team lead Dr. Reza Izadpanah said:

Our findings show that both genes play a role in breast cancer growth and metastasis. While targeting Rab27a delays progression of tumor growth, it fails to affect the spread of tiny amounts of cancer cells, or micrometastasis. On the contrary, targeting TRAF3IP2 suppresses tumor growth and spread, and interfering with it both shrinks pre-formed tumors and prevents additional spread. This exciting discovery has revealed that TRAF3IP2 can play a role as a novel therapeutic target in breast cancer treatment.