Markers Found for Type of Breast Cancer

BETHESDA, Md., May 18 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they have found markers on cells linked to an aggressive but less common form of breast cancer called estrogen receptor-negative cancer.

National Cancer Institute researchers said they discovered estrogen-negative breast cancer developed when three specific markers were present simultaneously on the surface of human cells taken from breast cancer patients and transplanted into a mouse in what’s called a xenograft model.

The scientists named the human cells with tumor-forming ability in mice, xenograft-initiating cells, or XIC.

The medical investigators said their identification of specific markers on cells associated with estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer is important because that type of breast cancer is more difficult to treat than estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. Estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers may be treated with medications such as tamoxifen, which interfere with the activity of estrogen. But no targeted therapies are yet available for patients with estrogen receptor-negative breast tumors.

“We are excited but cautious at the prospect that the presence of the XIC markers on estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer cells may present a selective target for early detection imaging and for personalized therapy,” said Barbara Vonderhaar, NCI scientist emeritus of the Mammary Biology and Tumorigenesis Laboratory at the cancer center.

The research appears online in the journal Cancer Research, ahead of print in the journal’s June issue.

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