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Pathway to New to Breast Cancer Treatment Announced

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Duke University researchers announced that targeting a protein in the nucleus of breast cancer cells, called ERRa, which plays a part in growth of aggressive tumors, may lead the way to a new breast cancer treatment.

These findings published in the Oct. 18, 2011, issue of the journal Cancer Cell, presents a potential new way to inhibit breast cancer growth among the particularly lethal estrogen receptor negative cancers which do not respond to available hormone therapies.

In an interview with Science Daily, Donald McDonnell, PhD the chairman of the Duke Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology stated “This is validation of a new drug target for a subset of breast cancers that have poor treatment options.”

"There are a lot of proteins that play important roles in breast cancer pathogenesis, but disappointingly, the activity of only a few of these proteins can be inhibited by drugs," McDonnell said. "In contrast, it's relatively easy to interfere with ERRα's function. So instead of looking for the pathways that lead to ERRα activation, we can aim directly at the target ERRα. It doesn't matter what's upstream."

McDonnell said the new drug approach could be applied to many cancers including colon and ovarian cancers, since ERRα is highly active in many different malignancies.

"The initial excitement is we have found a target that seems to be important for estrogen-negative cancers," McDonnell said.

The Duke University research team is now investigating the reason why higher ERRα activity results in more aggressive breast cancer tumors. The researchers are also helping develop new drugs to inhibit the activity of this receptor.
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