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01-17-2012

Clarkson University Researchers Identify Possible Receptor for Key Breast Cancer Regulator

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/darie.jpg .]

A key protein potentially involved in regulating breast cancer progression has been identified by researchers at Clarkson University.

Costel C. DarieLed by Chemistry & Biomolecular Science Professor Costel C. Darie, the team worked to identify the binding partner of Tumor Differentiating Factor (TDF), a pituitary hormone that had previously been shown to reduce cancer progression in breast cancer cells.

Earlier studies had shown that breast cancer cells treated with TDF lost their cancerous characteristics and began acting like normal mammary cells, suggesting that TDF had tumor-suppressing capabilities. However, how TDF acted remained unclear, leading Darie's group to initiate a search for a cellular receptor in cancer cells that might bind TDF and transmit its anti-tumorigenic cues.

Darie's group found that a receptor, labeled TDF-R, was found exclusively in breast, but not other cancer, cells, suggesting a level of specificity that agrees with previous reports of the efficacy of TDF.

This result, which is being reported in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, has substantial potential implications for developing new therapies for treating breast cancers known to be unresponsive to standard steroid hormone-based therapies, such as tamoxifen treatment.

Looking toward the next step, Darie asserted that "finding the receptor for the TDF hormone will allow us to rationally design drugs that will have a potent ability to stop cancer progression." He continued, "We will also be able to use TDF as a biomarker for breast cancer onset, thereby improving diagnoses."

Though cancer incidence and mortality rates have declined over the past 30 years, breast cancer remains a major killer: In 2007, breast cancer accounted for about 40,000 deaths in the U.S., while another 200,000 women were diagnosed, according to the Center for Disease Control.

For the abstract of Darie's team's paper, visit http://www.jbc.org/content/287/3/1719.abstract .

Journal of Biological Chemistry is published by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), a nonprofit scientific and educational organization with more than 12,000 members worldwide. Most members teach and conduct research at colleges and universities. Others conduct research in various government laboratories, at nonprofit research institutions and in industry. The Society's student members attend undergraduate or graduate institutions. For more information about ASBMB, visit http://www.asbmb.org .

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Costel C. Darie.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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