New insights to treat a type of breast cancer that is aggressive and unresponsive to current forms of treatment have been found by scientists at the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) and National University of Singapore (NUS).
The insights into the behaviour of the enzyme EZH2, paves the way to developing more effective treatment for fast sreading breast cancers, especially estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer, a common cancer in women all over the world.
The discovery which was published in the journal Molecular Cell, also opens the way to treating many other types of cancer involving the enzyme EZH2.
The team led by GIS Senior Group Leader Dr Qiang Yu found that the enzyme EZH2 acts by inhibiting genes that stop the growth of tumors in the body.
It was also found that through EZH2, cancer is promoted in the body by activating specific genes that impact breast cancer progression and cancer stem cell self-renewal.
“This new understanding on how EZH2 works as a cancer-causing gene in breast cancer has important therapeutic implication, the results suggest that small molecule drugs that block enzyme activity of EZH2 may not work for cancers caused by EZH2’s activation genes” said Dr Yu.
Assoc Prof Chng, a clinician scientist working on hematological oncology from the Cancer Science Institute at the NUS said that with the breakthrough, the next step would be to develop biomarkers to identify tumors with EZH2.
This step would enable better treatment methods.
“Alternatively, we should design therapies that will shut down EZH2 completely and not just inhibit its enzymatic function” said said A/P Chng.
Currently pharmaceutical companies have been developing drugs only to the block EZH2 enzyme activity so that tumor suppressors can perform their protective role in blocking cancer growth.