Researchers claim further insights into the workings of CEP17 in cancer could lead to new treatment approaches.

An international research team claims that the CEP17 gene on chromosome 17 represents a promising biomarker for predicting whether breast cancer patients will respond to anthracycline therapy. The research is being presented at the “Seventh European Breast Cancer Conference” being held in Barcelona.

Led by John Bartlett, Ph.D., professor of molecular pathology at the University of Edinburgh, the group found that an abnormality in the CEP17 gene is predictive of a worse outcome for breast cancer patients but also indicates that tumors in these patients will respond to anthracycline therapy.

The results emerged from the team’s meta-analysis of four breast cancer trials that included nearly 3,000 patients. Their analysis found that after adjusting for additional factors, patients with the CEP17 abnormality who were treated using anthracyclines were two third more likely to survive as well as survive without cancer recurrence than those who didn’t receive anthracyclines.

Dr. Bartlett suggests that if the results can be confirmed, it may indicate that that “only those patients with CEP17 tumors should receive anthracyclines, thereby enabling other patients who do not have the CEP17 abnormality to avoid a toxic treatment that will not be effective.”

Although CEP17 is located on the same chromosome as the known breast cancer-related genes, HER2 and TOP2A, the new research could find no association between them. “We need to understand what CEP17 is telling us about the behavior of breast cancer cells,” Dr. Bartlett admits. “It works as a biomarker for predicting response to anthracyclines, but we don’t know why it works. So our next step is to discover this and to try to make the cancers that don’t have the marker behave like the ones that do, so that they will respond to anthracyclines.”

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