New Breast Cancer Gene Widespread
Mutations in IKBKE Gene Linked to 30% to 40% of Breast Cancers
June 14, 2007 -- Scientists have found a new breast cancer gene in up to 40%
of all breast cancers, making it a promising target for future breast cancer
The gene is called IKBKE. It makes a protein called IKK. In some (but not
all) breast cancers, the IKBKE gene mutates. That ramps up IKK production,
which in turn spurs cancer growth.
That's according to William Hahn, MD, PhD, and colleagues, who describe the
IKBKE gene in the journal Cell.
"We'd like to find a molecule or a way of targeting this protein
product, because it's likely to be a good target in breast cancer," Hahn
He explains that IKK belongs to a family of proteins called kinases.
"The chemists know how to target kinases," Hahn says. "Our hope
is that, working with other people, we can come up with a molecule that targets
this in a relatively short period of time, rather than years and years and
Hahn works in Boston at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and
Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the Broad Institute, a research
collaboration between Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Breast Cancer Gene
Unlike other breast cancer genes, the IKBKE gene mutation isn't inherited,
"It's what we call a somatic mutation in a cancer, rather than a
germ-line or inherited mutation like BRCA1 or BRCA2," Hahn says. The BRCA1
and BRCA2 gene mutations make breast cancer and ovarian cancer more likely.
Hahn says it's not clear how or why the IKBKE gene mutates in some breast
The scientists searched for the IKBKE gene mutation in 30 human breast
cancer tumors. The IKBKE gene mutation turned up in 10 of those tumors
"We've looked since then in many, many breast cancer samples and it's
falling between 30% and 40%," Hahn says.
In a series of lab tests, Hahn's team successfully switched off the IKBKE
gene. That prompted breast cancer cells to die.
Hahn's team wants to find a way to target the IKBKE gene in people. They
also want to look for "genes like this in many types of cancer," Hahn
Their approach has "given us a path towards sorting through all the
different mutations that might be in cancer -- which ones are the ones that are
really important and which ones are just riding along as passenger
mutations," Hahn says.