Breast cancer

Updated 09 November 2017

Breast cancer drug switch found

Scientists have pinpointed the molecular on-off switch that the powerful drug tamoxifen uses to attack breast cancer and which prevents it from working in some women.

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Scientists have pinpointed the molecular on-off switch that the powerful drug tamoxifen uses to attack breast cancer and which prevents it from working in some women.

That discovery should eventually help doctors test for resistance to the drug, the chief treatment for breast cancers that are oestrogen-driven, researchers said. Tamoxifen doesn't work in about one-quarter to one-third of women who are treated with it.

A test for resistance based on the research, published in the journal Nature, is probably about five years away, said study co-author Jason Carroll, a cancer researcher at the Cambridge Research Institute in the United Kingdom.

Tamoxifen turns off a gene that causes tumours to grow, but sometimes it fails in a molecular tug-of-war with another protein, and that's when the drug doesn't work, Carroll said. "If that switch fails, the tamoxifen fails," he said. "The switch is hidden in the background of the genome in the gene itself." – (Sapa, November 2008)

 

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Breast cancer expert

Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

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