Washington DC: A new protein has been found that is associated with breast cancer patients' survival.
According to a study conducted by the UT Southwestern Medical Center, this protein is strongly associated with metastatic breast cancer and that could be a target for future therapies.
High levels of the protein ZMYND8 are correlated with poor survival in breast cancer patients, said researcher Weibo Luo.
Previous research has shown that breast cancer cells are more aggressive in an oxygen-deprived, or hypoxic, environment. A protein family called hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) controls responses to hypoxia, switching on pathways that lead to cancer cell growth and spread.
"Our research shows that ZMYND8 is a regulator that activates hundreds of HIF-dependent oncogenes in breast cancer cells," Luo said.
"Our studies uncovered a feedback loop that amplifies HIF-controlled oncogenes to drive breast tumor malignancy," said researcher Yingfei Wang.
Approximately 250,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, according to National Institutes of Health figures, and about 40,000 died of the disease.
Metastatic breast cancer is cancer that has spread to other sites in the body, and the vast majority of breast cancer deaths occur in patients in whom cancer has metastasised.
"This work uncovers a primary epigenetic mechanism of HIF-mediated breast cancer progression, and reveals a possible molecular target for diagnosis and treatment of aggressive disease," Luo said.
The research appears in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.