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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 08/17/00
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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College of Pharmacy Researcher Identifies Hormone-Regulated Gene

Cincinnati--A University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Pharmacy researcher has identified and isolated a new gene (HRPAP20) that may play a crucial role in the spread or metastasis of hormone-sensitive breast cancer and prostate cancer. "This gene was cloned from hormone-dependent human breast cancer cells," says Arthur R. Buckley, PhD, associate professor, UC College of Pharmacy. The gene appears to be "turned on" or expressed by high levels of hormones in hormone-sensitive breast cancer cells.

A major difficulty in the treatment of hormone-responsive cancers, such as those found in the breast and prostate, is that after initial therapy with drugs to suppress the actions of cancer-related hormones, these tumors lose their sensitivity to the anti-hormonal treatments. "The tumor cells are initially dependent upon hormones for survival, but eventually lose their dependence on them," says Buckley. As the cancer cells become less dependent on the hormones, they become increasingly aggressive in their invasion of other organs. "These tumors are difficult to treat because when they mutate the anti-hormonal drug treatment no longer works," says Buckley.

Identification of HRPAP20 is a first step toward understanding how hormone-sensitive breast cancers become resistant to hormone-inhibiting drugs. The UC researchers will continue to study this gene to determine the precise cellular function of HRPAP20. They want to find the mechanism that causes the gene to turn on, and evaluate why it is expressed in cancers that outgrow their dependency on estrogen or progesterone. "Our ultimate goal is to better understand the process of tumor progression and to develop treatments that can stop it," says Buckley.

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