In 2013, breast cancer affected more than 230,000 women and 2,300 men. That year, it claimed the lives of nearly 40,000, making it the second most deadly cancer for women. As a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center, CSHL is a leader in breast cancer research, working to understand the biology of cancer and develop new diagnostics and therapies.
The Laboratory employs a multidisciplinary approach to identify new proteins and biological processes that are critical for breast cancer development. These pathways become the targets for cutting-edge drugs and treatments to halt breast cancer progression. At the same time, CSHL scientists are applying advanced technologies to better understand the progression of the disease for earlier detection and prevention.
New targets, new treatments
A significant portion of breast cancer research at CSHL is dedicated to identifying new drug targets and therapies. From innovative imaging techniques to RNAi-based searches to the latest in DNA sequencing technology, CSHL scientists are leading the fight against breast cancer.
Targeting the microenvironment to stop tumors
Traditional breast cancer therapies aim to kill tumor cells. CSHL scientists have revealed that normal cells within the tumor actually send out signals to support cancer cells. These signals promote growth and metastasis, and researchers are actively working to disrupt them.
RNAi-based screens to identify new targets
RNA-interference (RNAi), is a powerful genetic tool pioneered at CSHL. It allows scientists to systematically turn off any gene in the genome. CSHL researchers are using this revolutionary technology to look for genes that are required for human breast cancer cells to grow. Those genes are likely to be new therapeutic targets that can be tested in clinical trials.
Splicing in breast cancer
As proteins are made from our genetic information, they go through an editing step, known as RNA splicing. In cancer cells, this process is often abnormal and the resulting proteins are defective. These faulty proteins promote tumor growth and metastasis. CSHL researchers have identified one splicing factor in particular that causes breast cancer tumors to develop.
As tumors spread, or metastasize, they become much more deadly. Researchers at CSHL have identified new targets to halt breast cancer metastasis, including a class of molecules known as non-coding RNAs. One of these non-coding RNAs is required for breast cancer cells to metastasize to the lung. Scientists have discovered a treatment that destroys this RNA, and it reduces tumor growth and metastasis.
Novel approaches to breast cancer treatment
Right now, the targeted therapy Herceptin® is the gold standard for HER2-positive breast cancer. But patients often develop resistance to the drug, which leads to devastating relapses. Recent research at CSHL has identified a protein, known as PTP1B, that plays a role in HER2-positive breast cancer. An inhibitor of PTP1B prevents metastasis in mouse models of HER2-positive breast cancer. CSHL researchers are working with clinicians at North Shore-LIJ Medical Center to test this drug in an upcoming clinical trial in women with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer.
Prevention & diagnosis
CSHL scientists are looking for more than a cure. They are using the latest technology in the search for methods to detect breast cancer earlier or even prevent it altogether.
Sequencing for better diagnostic tools
CSHL scientists are analyzing the genomes of women with breast cancer to eliminate the “trial-and-error” approach to therapy. They are developing diagnostic tests that are able to determine how aggressive a particular cancer is and which therapy will be most effective against it.
In a major technological breakthrough, CSHL scientists have devised a method to sequence DNA from a single cell. Using this technology, scientists have found that tumors are actually made up of many different types of cells. Sequencing individual cells allows doctors to predict which tumors are likely to metastasize. The technology can detect cancer cells circulating in the blood, meaning it can be used as a monitoring tool for early detection of cancer.
Prevention through understanding
Pregnancy decreases a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. CSHL researchers are using RNAi-based strategies to understand the protective cellular changes that happen after pregnancy. The goal is to develop new preventative strategies.
Abnormal process of protein production in cells can spur tumors 10/1/2015
Mammary glands remember previous pregnancy with implications for breast cancer 5/7/2015
Tumor cells can mimic blood vessels and spread outside the breast 5/8/2015