Researchers have found that a rare but hard-to-treat form of breast cancer is driven by a newly discovered gene. The gene ZNF703 is the first oncogene to be discovered in five years, and it could lead to more effective treatments down the road, Cancer Research UK said.
Oncogenes are dictators who tell healthy cells to divide when needed. But in tumors, they are overactive and the cancer multiplies unstoppably. The oncogene acts like a stuck accelerator that leads a car to speed out of control. The report appeared in Friday’s online issue of the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine where scientists from Cancer Research UK and Cambridge Research Institute and the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver said evidence strongly suggests ZNF703 is a new oncogene.
They tested the gene activity in 1,172 breast tumor samples that were estrogen receptor-positive. Testing whether the gene is overactive in a tumor could help highlight those more likely to resist standard treatments, said the study’s senior author, Prof. Carlos Caldas, of the Cambridge Research Institute. ZNF703 is overactive in around one in 12 breast cancers, Caldas explained. The oncogene acts in the opposite way to better known cancer genes like BRCA1 and 2 that are tumor suppressor genes.