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Protein Plays a Critical Role in the Development of Aggressive Breast Cancer

New study shows dramatic difference in incidence of tumor formation based on presence of NEDD9

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 20, 2010) – Researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center have identified a potentially significant molecular player in the development of aggressive breast cancer. The team’s findings show that a protein called NEDD9 is critical in the formation of  breast tumors induced by high levels of the cell-surface receptor HER2/neu in mice. HER2-driven breast cancer is known to be one the most aggressive forms of the disease.

Joy L. Little, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Erica A. Golemis, PhD, at Fox Chase Cancer Center, will present the findings at the 2010 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

In mice engineered to overexpress the HER2/neu gene, Little and her colleagues found that 89% of mice with the Nedd9 gene developed tumors over an 18-month period.  In comparison, only 29% of mice without the Nedd9 gene developed tumors. These findings indicate a novel role for NEDD9 in tumor initiation.

“There is a lot of research describing contributors to cancer formation, but it is always truly exciting when studies show that the loss or absence of something prevents cancer from occurring,” says Little.  “The fact that in the majority of our animals, HER2-driven tumors don’t form without NEDD9 is new information we can use to view NEDD9 as a potential biomarker. If tumors show higher levels of NEDD9, it could be they are more aggressive.”

Based on the data collected, researchers are now poised to delve deeper into discovering what about the biology of NEDD9 makes it crucial in the formation stages of HER2-driven tumors. Pharmacological targeting of NEDD9 could also be therapeutically relevant, Little notes.
Little is a second-time recipient of an AACR Scholar-in-Training Travel Award, given to young investigators. She is also the recipient of a National Cancer Institute postdoctoral award to further pursue study of NEDD9 biology.

Co-authors on the study include Fox Chase researchers Eugene Izumchenko, PhD, Mahendra K. Singh, PhD, Brian Egleston, PhD, Andres Klein-Szanto, MD, and Erica A. Golemis, PhD

Funding for this research comes from grants from the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Israel Cancer Association, Stanley Abersur Research Foundation, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Pew Charitable Fund, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.


Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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