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HCI Map of Breast Formation Identifies Potential Targets for Cancer Treatment




In partnership with researchers at the Salk Institute in San Diego, Huntsman Cancer Institute scientists have created a map of how breast tissue forms.

Researchers have long known that cancer results when normal biological processes go awry and that there’s an inextricable link between organ development as usual and cancer. Understanding how the processes normally work in the development of breast tissue can help scientists figure out how to disrupt them after they’ve been hijacked by breast cancer.

This is the first time such a map has been created for the formation of breast tissue, because the technology to do it didn’t exist until recently. It was done by extracting breast cells from over 6,000 mice at different points during the development of breast tissue and comparing the genes active inside their cells. This allowed the researchers to see what changes over time. Mice are considered a good stand-in for human biology for this purpose.

The team found hundreds of genes they think may be implicated in the development of breast cancer. Given that there are over 200 kinds of cancer, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are several types of breast cancer. Not all types currently have a targeted therapy—that is, drugs designed to target specific genetic changes that allow the cancer to quickly grow and spread. In their study, the HCI and Salk researchers write that a major aim of their work is to understand new targets for drugs that could be used to either treat or prevent cancer. Their next step is to start working on new drugs that could do exactly that.



Giraddi, R. R., Chung, C., Heinz, R. E., Balcioglu, O., Novotny, M., Trejo, C. L., . . . Spike, B. T. (2018). Single-Cell Transcriptomes Distinguish Stem Cell State Changes and Lineage Specification Programs in Early Mammary Gland Development. Cell Reports,24(6). doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2018.07.025

Research Identifies New Treatment Targets in Breast Cancer. (2018, August 07). Retrieved from https://huntsmancancer.org/newsroom/2018/08/research-identifies-new-treatment-targets-in-breast-caner.php 

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