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Promise and Progress - Angiogenesis Gene Linked to Boimarkers in Breast Cancer

Faces of Childhood Cancer

Angiogenesis Gene Linked to Boimarkers in Breast Cancer

Date: June 1, 2004

Kimmel Cancer Center scientists have made what is believed to be the first link between a gene that controls blood vessel growth and increased activity in a panel of breast cancer biomarkers that regulate tumor cell growth.

The HOXB7 (or homeobox B7) gene appears to drive tumor development by increasing the production of growth factors that affect blood vessel development, according to study director Saraswati Sukumar, Ph.D., Barbara Rubenstein Professor of Oncology. Her team found increased production of messenger molecules directed by the HOXB7 gene in more than 60 percent of breast cancer cell lines and 90 percent of primary breast cancers. They also found that the gene is important in initiating cancer cells to move from their primary site to metastatic sites. Their microarray data has shown that HOXB7 gene expression is low or undetectable in normal breast tissue, and is expressed five to seven times higher in primary tumors and up to 20 times higher in bone metastasis.

“We also found that turning on the HOXB7 gene causes overproduction of a family of breast cancer markers called receptor tyrosine kinases,” says Sukumar. “So we believe HOXB7 is important for the early development of breast cancer and may be a good target for detection and therapeutic tools.”