When breast cancer becomes advanced and spreads to other organs, patient survival is drastically reduced, prompting the need to explore the genes that may cause tumor cells to metastasize. Now, scientists from The Wistar Institute in Philadelphia have shown that one gene that was once thought only to be expressed in the brain is also expressed in breast cancer and helps promote the growth and spread of the disease. Additionally, the researchers showed how a version of the gene with edited RNA prevents metastasis. The findings were published online on February 12, 2016 in Nature Communications. The open-access article is titled “The mRNA-Edited Form of GABRA3 Suppresses GABRA3-Mediated AKT Activation and Breast Cancer Metastasis.” If breast cancer is caught in its earliest stages, all patients who are treated successfully are alive five years after treatment, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). However, when breast cancer metastasizes, or spreads from the breast to other organs, only about one in five patients survives more than five years. This significant gap in survival underscores the need to determine what causes breast cancer to spread. The causes of metastasis in breast cancer at a molecular level are not very well understood, so identifying regulatory genes that prompt this behavior could have a tremendous impact on survival, from early detection to the design of better treatment strategies. "Metastatic breast cancer is ultimately what kills patients," said Qihong Huang, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis Program at The Wistar Institute and lead author of the study.
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