Researchers Identified a Protein That Protects Against Breast Cancer Growth

Per Uhlén, Breast Cancer Researcher

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have identified a protein that protects against breast tumor growth and that can be linked to a better prognosis in breast cancer patients. The results, which are published in the journal Nature Communications, may contribute to the development of new therapies for difficult-to-treat forms of breast cancer.

“Identification of new molecular mechanisms that regulate the growth of ER-negative breast cancer is warranted, as these mechanisms may represent novel therapeutic targets”, says Per Uhlén, professor at the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, Karolinska Institutet (in the photo above).

Professor Uhlén and colleagues have identified a novel mechanism by which the ubiquitous protein GIT1 regulates so-called Notch Signalling, affecting the initiation and growth of ER-negative breast tumor. His research group is actively collaborating with clinicians treating patients with cancer to focus on research topics that are crucial for the treatment of patients.

Associated with better prognosis of breast cancer

Studies of tumor cells showed that high levels of GIT1 inhibited Notch Signalling and protected against tumor growth, while low levels of GIT1 enhanced tumor growth. ER-negative breast tumors from patients had lower levels of GIT1 than ER-positive breast tumors. The results also showed that ER-negative patients with high levels of GIT1 have a better prognosis than those with low levels.

Notch signalling is an evolutionarily conserved cell-cell communication mechanism that has been shown to regulate cell fate decisions in most organs of the body and at different steps during cell development. Overactive Notch signalling in breast cancer patients has previously been linked to a worse prognosis.

“Our results provide important information about a mechanism that controls the initiation and growth of breast tumors,” says Professor Uhlén. “We hope that these findings will inform the development of new therapies for patients with difficult-to-treat breast cancer.”