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Conquer Cancer Health News

Gene Found That Helps Cancer Resist Tamoxifen
1/18/2000 Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Dutch researchers said on Tuesday they had found a gene that helps breast cancer tumors resist one of the most effective drugs, a discovery that could boost development of new treatments.

The drug, tamoxifen, is sold by AstraZeneca (AZN.L) under the name Nolvadex. It has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer by nearly 50 percent in certain high-risk women.

Writing in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Lambert Dorssers of University Hospital Rotterdam and colleagues said the gene -- BCAR1/p130Cas -- may also make cancer progress more quickly in some patients.

The gene does not seem to affect any of the other drugs used to treat breast cancer, Dorssers's team said.

A second study by the same team found that patients who had high levels of BCAR1/p130Cas also did more poorly eight years after diagnosis than other breast cancer patients.

Women who had little or no evidence of the gene in their tumors -- determined by looking at tissue samples given years before -- had a 50 percent chance of being free of breast cancer eight years later.

But women with high levels only had a 32 percent chance of escaping relapse.

So far, the researchers do not know much else about the gene, which they studied in human cancer cells grown in laboratory dishes.

But they said that once scientists learn more about it they may be able to come up with drugs or other treatments to counter its effects.

Dorssers and colleagues think their gene may explain a mechanism known as tamoxifen resistance, cited as the reason half the women taking the drug are not helped by it.

A U.S. woman has a one-in-eight risk of breast cancer compared to a one-in-three risk of heart disease. A British woman has a one-in-12 risk of breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society predicts that 43,000 U.S. women will die of breast cancer this year.

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