Researchers at East Lansing’s MSU Find Genetic Mutation in Breast Cancer that Could Open Treatments for Lung Cancer

Research from scientists at Michigan State University in East Lansing has found that a genetic mutation’s role in breast cancer could open treatment options for lung cancer. A mutation present but not consequential in breast cancer was found to inhibit growth of certain human lung cancer tumors.
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Scientists at MSU have discovered a genetic mutation in breast cancer that could create treatments for lung cancer. // Image courtesy of Michigan State University

Research from scientists at Michigan State University in East Lansing has found that a genetic mutation’s role in breast cancer could open treatment options for lung cancer. A mutation present but not consequential in breast cancer was found to inhibit growth of certain human lung cancer tumors.

“We sequenced the whole genome of breast cancer samples and found a driving mutation that hasn’t been recognized as important in lung cancer before,” says Eran Andrechek, a physiology professor in the College of Human Medicine. “This mutation has clear potential to identify lung cancer patients who should be receiving targeted therapy that’s already approved by the FDA.”

Andrechek and his team used lab mice and computational analysis of sequenced genes.

About 5 percent of lung cancer cases carry the mutation. This means that about 11,000 people in the U.S. who have lung cancer could gain time.

“It’s not a cure,” says Andrechek. “It has the potential to extend life span and increase quality of life for the patients.”

The researchers also found genes that were amplified in mice and in human breast cancer using CRISPR gene-editing technology and were able to stop the cancer cells from spreading.

“When we used CRISPR to knockout two of these genes, we blocked migration and metastasis of the tumors,” says Andrechek. “In humans, we would do a drug screen to find FDA-approved drugs that would target the genes and block them.”

While breast cancer is the most common cancer among women and prostate cancer is the most common among men, in the developed world, lung cancer kills more people than breast, prostate, and colon cancer combined, according to the American Cancer Society. About one in 15 men and one in 17 women will develop lung cancer in their lifetimes, with smokers at higher risk.

Andrechek’s next step is to better describe and manipulate the mutation’s effect on the protein that regulates cancer tumor growth before any human clinical trials begin. He’s also working with another MSU lab to secure grant funding to apply the findings once again to breast cancer research.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and Worldwide Cancer Research, as well as support from Midland’s Elsa U. Pardee Foundation. The study was published in Nature Communications and is available here.

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