Breast cancer drug switch found

Scientists have pinpointed the molecular on-off switch that the powerful drug tamoxifen uses to attack breast cancer and which prevents it from working in some women.

That discovery should eventually help doctors test for resistance to the drug, the chief treatment for breast cancers that are oestrogen-driven, researchers said. Tamoxifen doesn't work in about one-quarter to one-third of women who are treated with it.

A test for resistance based on the research, published in the journal Nature, is probably about five years away, said study co-author Jason Carroll, a cancer researcher at the Cambridge Research Institute in the United Kingdom.

Tamoxifen turns off a gene that causes tumours to grow, but sometimes it fails in a molecular tug-of-war with another protein, and that's when the drug doesn't work, Carroll said. "If that switch fails, the tamoxifen fails," he said. "The switch is hidden in the background of the genome in the gene itself." – (Sapa, November 2008)

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.