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Canadian researcher halts, reverses growth of breast cancer in mice


Toronto, ON November 5, 2003 Canadian microbiologist and CBCRA-funded researcher, Dr William J Muller, has presented pivotal research which demonstrates that it is possible to block genetic switches in mice that turn cancer on and off thereby preventing and even reversing the growth of breast cancer. The research was presented this week at the 24th Congress of the International Association for Breast Cancer Research in California.

Dr Muller and his team of international researchers have discovered that removing a gene known as beta-1 integrin halts breast cancer growth in laboratory mice. Beta-1 integrin is a principal regulator of normal breast tissue growth, but if it malfunctions, it can have a direct effect on breast tumor growth. Dr Muller’s research shows that if the gene is eliminated, it has a preventative effect on cancer-prone mice, and stops further tumor growth in mice that have already developed breast cancer.

Although the research is pre-clinical and has not yet been tested on humans, the implications for the future study of breast cancer are very encouraging. “These results are an enormous step forward in being able to inhibit tumor growth, and in breast cancer research overall,” says Dr Marilyn Schneider, executive director of the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance (CBCRA). “This team has identified a key component of breast cancer, and we can now look to developing an agent to block its activity. This exciting finding opens doors for researchers to utilize Dr Muller’s discovery for further studies on how to prevent, and how to treat breast cancer effectively.”

Dr Muller is professor of biochemistry at McGill University in Montreal, and a lead investigator on the study. He has long studied the role of the ErbB-2 oncogene in the initiation and progression of breast tumors, through his ten previous research grants on the topic, funded by the CBCRA. This particular study was funded both by CBCRA and the National Institutes of Health in the US.