Gene may keep breast cancer at bay

Scientists have discovered a gene that seems to protect against some breast cancers. By comparing healthy breast cells with breast-tumor cells, scientists at Cold Spring Harbor (N.Y.) Laboratory zeroed in on DNA differences in a gene they dubbed DBC2 on chromosome 8.

The gene was mutated, missing, or otherwise disabled in slightly more than half the lab-grown breast cancer cell lines tested, says study coauthor Masaaki Hamaguchi, a cancer geneticist at Cold Spring Harbor. The cell lines represent roughly 90 percent of breast cancer cases, he says. A mutated version of DBC2 also showed up in one lung cancer cell line, he and his colleagues report in the Oct. 15 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Although the role of the protein encoded by DBC2 remains unknown, tests revealed that adding a functional DBC2 gene to breast tumor cells halted replication of those cells, suggesting it has tumor-suppressing properties, Hamaguchi says.


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