A team at the Salk Institute has identified a master switch that appears to control the dynamic behavior of tumor cells that makes some aggressive cancers so difficult to treat. The gene Sox10 directly controls the growth and invasion of a significant fraction of hard-to-treat triple-negative breast cancers. Recently, the Salk lab led by Professor Geoffrey Wahl discovered that aggressive breast cancers return to a flexible, earlier state found in fetal breast tissue. This cellular reprogramming may be the key to cancer's ability to form new cell types, evolve drug resistance, and metastasize to other locations in the body. The new work documenting Sox10's role in this process, which was reported online in Cancer Cell on August 30, 2018, represents a major milestone in researchers' understanding of cancer and could open new avenues for diagnosing and treating aggressive breast cancer, as well as other types of intractable cancers. The article is titled “Epigenetic and Transcriptomic Profiling of Mammary Gland Development and Tumor Models Disclose Regulators of Cell State Plasticity.” "Two things that make triple-negative breast cancers so hard to treat are their heterogeneity--they have many different cell types within a single tumor--and their ability to move around and colonize new areas, the process of metastasis," says Dr. Wahl, holder of the Daniel and Martina Lewis Chair and senior author of the work.
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