UC Researchers Find Protein That Mediates Formation of HER2 Breast Cancer

UC Health News

CINCINNATI—Researchers at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine have identified for the first time that the estrogen receptor-binding protein MED1 is a critical mediator of HER2-driven breast cancer, identifying it as a potential therapeutic target.MED1 is a protein often produced, or expressed, at abnormally high levels in breast cancer cells that when eliminated is found to stop cancer cell growth; HER2 breast cancer involves a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, which promotes the growth of cancer cells.  These findings, published ahead of print in the Jan. 8 online edition of the journal Cancer Research, could lead to better, more effective treatments for aggressive and treatment-resistant breast cancer.”Breast cancer remains one of the most common cancers and is one of the leading causes of death for women in the U.S.,” says Xiaoting Zhang, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Cancer Biology at the UC College of Medicine, member of the Cincinnati Cancer Center and the UC Cancer Institute and lead author on this study. “Studies have divided breast cancer into several subtypes based on gene expression of estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor and/or HER2. MED1 is an estrogen receptor coactivator that has been shown to play important roles in estrogen receptor-dependent functions in both mammary gland development and breast cancer.”Interestingly, the MED1 gene is located very close to and amplified together with HER2 in the gene, and the MED1 protein levels are highly linked to HER2-positive breast cancer. Additionally, we’ve found that HER2 can activate MED1, and MED1 functions as a key ‘crosstalk’ point between the HER2 and estrogen receptor pathway in the treatment resistance of HER2 and estrogen receptor double positive breast cancer. However, the role and underlying molecular functions of MED1 in HER2-driven breast cancer development and spread is still poorly understood.”Zhang says in this study, …

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