Scientists have created mice that are immune to some of the most common types of breast cancer, a development they say brings science a step closer to developing drugs to precisely block the spread of breast cancer in humans.
The research involves a protein linked to half of all human breast cancers. The bioengineered mice lack that protein, which feeds some tumors.
Though it could take years to develop a drug therapy targeting the protein, the findings are dramatic proof that certain breast cancers can occur only when the protein is present, said Christopher Widnell, scientific program director of the Atlanta-based American Cancer Society.
"This work is taking us to the next phase, where you can actually start designing intelligent treatments for individual tumors," said Widnell, who wasn't involved in the research.
The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists who conducted the research said they hope their findings will inspire more research to target the protein using existing cancer-blocking drugs.
They produced the cancer-resistant mice by building on earlier success in engineering mice that don't express the protein cyclin D1, one of many proteins that regulate cell growth. Because cyclin D1 is found in abnormally high amounts in half of human breast cancers, it has become the focus of much scientific scrutiny.