November 6, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 38  

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Working towards a cure for breast cancer

By Eric Johanssen
Gazette Staff

If your life has been affected by cancer, then you can surely appreciate the fact Canadian and American scientists have come one small step closer to finding a cure for breast cancer.

Scientists from Canada and the United States have been able to reverse breast cancer in lab mice, forecasting that new drugs using their genetic approach will potentially lead to the eradication of breast cancer in humans. The research has also been shown, in mice, to prevent breast cancer.

William Muller, professor of biochemistry at McGill University and lead author of the study, said this research has been applied to only one model of breast cancer, indicating the importance lies in being able to apply this research to other models of breast cancer. "This [particular] molecule is a very aggressive form found in the cell surface of tumor cells, allowing cells to sense where it is. [The hope is] to make antibodies to interfere with its function," he said.

"[This is no indication of a] cure yet; drugs still have to be manufactured that [work] in humans; this could take years" Muller said. "This information has not been published yet; it still has to be confirmed [and] peer-reviewed."

David Rhodeniser, an associate professor in the departments of paediatrics, biochemistry and oncology at Western, said at this point, this is just a report that was published at a scientific meeting. "It has yet to be published [in a scholarly journal]," he said.

"You hear this, it sounds interesting, but scientists have to actually read the studies, tear them apart and try to see where it fits into the grand scheme," Rhodeniser added .

Lynne Chappell, regional administrator of the Ontario Breast Cancer Screening Program for the south and southwest regions, said as a breast cancer survivor, any new research giving a window to preventing breast cancer is very exciting. "This is just [preliminary] research; it's a long way from implementation" Chappell said, adding early detection is the best protection.

Rhodeniser said the study's implications are great, if in fact it is possible to go the next step and move the findings into the human model. "Curing cancer in mice is great, but curing cancer in humans is our ultimate goal," he said.

Chappell added finding breast cancer through regular screenings is the key to beating breast cancer until such research is further explored.



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