New breast cancer gene discovered

DBC2 gene missing or inactive in 60% of breast cancers examined

Scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the University of Washington have discovered a new tumor suppressor gene that is missing or inactive in as many as 60% of breast cancers, and is also altered in lung cancer.

The discovery of the gene, called DBC2 (for deleted in breast cancer) is highly significant because DBC2 is among the first tumor suppressor genes to be clearly associated with sporadic breast cancer. Sporadic disease accounts for greater than 90% of all forms of breast and other cancers, in contrast to heritable forms of cancer, which account for a relatively small percentage of the disease.

Importantly, the researchers showed that production of the Dbc2 protein in breast cancer cells kills the cancer cells or stops them from growing.

The study – to be published on October 15 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – will be published on-line (at PNAS Early Edition, http://www.pnas.org/papbyrecent.shtml) during the week of October 7. The media embargo will lift at 5:00 PM EST on Monday, October 7.

In 1997, the same research group at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, led by Dr. Michael Wigler, identified one of the only other tumor suppressor genes (called PTEN) to be clearly associated with sporadic cancer. In 1981, Dr. Wigler’s group discovered the first cancer-causing oncogene, called RAS, from human cells.

In 1990, the same research group at the University of Washington, led by Dr. Mary-Claire King, discovered the first gene linked to hereditary breast cancer, called BRCA1.

For more information, a comprehensive press release, a copy of the study, or to arrange interviews with Dr. Wigler or Dr. King, please contact Peter Sherwood, Chief Science Correspondent, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (tel: 516-367-6947; e-mail: sherwood@cshl.edu).

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