Low Levels of Tumor Suppressor Protein May Predict Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence, Study Says

Low Levels of Tumor Suppressor Protein May Predict Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence, Study Says
Loss of a tumor suppressor protein called PTEN may predict the risk of breast cancer recurrence in patients who undergo radiotherapy, preclinical research shows. PTEN is a well-known tumor suppressor. It prevents uncontrolled cell growth, but because it is often mutated in human cancers, its deficiency contributes to the development of tumors. Low levels of the protein predisposes breast cells to defects that may promote the recurrence of cancer in response to radiotherapy. Screening the PTEN levels in breast cancer patients may help identify those who will benefit most from radiation therapy and those at risk of cancer recurrence due to the treatment.  At-risk women may benefit from combining radiation therapy with a specific type of inhibitor, the researchers found. The study, “Stromal PTEN determines mammary epithelial response to radiotherapy,” was published in the journal Nature Communications. Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and Ohio State University built on prior research suggesting that breast tumors could be fueled by PTEN-related alterations occurring in neighboring, apparently normal cells of the breast. To take a closer look at these PTEN-mediated alterations, they used the HER2 mouse model of breast cancer, and engineered these mice to lack the protein on breast stroma, the connective tissue that gives support and bridges communication between breast cells. In these mice, the researchers found that the loss of PTEN transforms mammary epithelial cells, those that line the milk ducts, making them more prone to genomic instability caused by exposure to radiation. A single dose of whole-body radiation treatment triggered breast cell overgrowth, or hyperplasia, a condition that can be a precurso
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