Cancer cells on the move

5:44pm, August 10, 2004

A gene recently linked to liver, skin, and pancreatic cancer also lies behind an often deadly form of breast cancer. A new study suggests how that gene causes such aggressive cancer.

Inflammatory breast cancer accounts for about 6 percent of new breast cancer cases in the United States each year. By the time it's diagnosed, the disease has typically spread to other parts of the body.

The protein made by a gene called RhoC helps both normal and cancer cells move, says Kenneth van Golen of the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor. His team exposed skin cells from human breasts to a chemical that attracts cells. Those cells genetically engineered to have extra copies of RhoC moved farther and faster over 3 hours than cells without the extra genes did and were more than five times as likely to burrow into an attractant-laced filter.

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