According to DublinLive, a team of scientists at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland has this week been awarded €200,000 by the research charity Breast Cancer Now, in order to fund clinical research for treatments related to RET – a protein suspected by scientists to be linked to the development of secondary tumors in breast cancer patients.
RET is a kind of receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK). RTKs are a kind of cell membrane receptor – microscopic gates that let select substances into and out of the inner cell. Some of these receptors also act like enzymes too, acting on substances ast they activate the receptor. RTKs make up the largest group of this type of receptor.
In tumors formed by certain subtypes of breast cancer, genetic triggers that activate the RET are found to be over-expressed. These triggers are found most often in breast cancer tumors that have metastasized to the brain.
Future RET Studies Set to Begin
Professor Leonie Young leads the team of Dublin-based scientists that discovered the relationship between RET levels and breast cancer. This week they received €200,000 to lay the groundwork for clinical trials studying the gene’s mode of action in breast cancer.
The team hopes to test a number of properties of the protein and related gene. In lab-grown cells, they will examine how silencing the associated RET gene affects the growth of breast cancer cells.
Using CRISPR technology, a kind of genome editing technique, the scientists will also attempt to remove RET cells from tumors directly. They hope to determine if doing so would inhibit the spread of breast cancer tumors to other places around the body, especially the brain.
Finally, Professor Young’s team will study the efficacy of an experimental RET-blocking drug in mice. This is an especially daunting task for research and development, as the human blood-brain barrier is a highly selective natural defense system. Formulating drugs that can penetrate it is no easy task, though researchers have recently evaluated similar pharmaceuticals intended for different types of cancer.
Professor Young will spend the next three year running these tests. She acknowledges that tumors the team had studied in the lab were of all different varieties, and is eager to expand testing to see if the findings hold water. Given that 1 in 8 women in the United States alone will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives, it’s no wonder that researchers are continuing to scramble for ever-more-effective treatments.
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