New gene identified as key target to fight toughest breast cancer

Cai Wenjun
Shanghai Cancer Center's medical experts have found LGALS2 is the key gene helping the deadly "triple-negative" breast cancer beat natural immunity systems.
Cai Wenjun

Medical experts from Shanghai Cancer Center have discovered a new target gene through which to attack the toughest type of breast cancer and enhance patients' immunotherapy effects.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women. Of all types of breast cancer, the so called "triple-negative" variety is the most complicated to treat. With no targeted therapy, chemotherapy is the only treatment option.

About 15 to 20 percent of breast cancer patients have triple-negative breast cancer, which is also the most fatal type.

"The human body generates cancerous cells every day. But the immunity system will form a defense and protection mechanism, like police, to identify such harmful cells and target and destroy them," said Dr Shao Zhimin, director of the hospital's department of breast cancer surgery.

"If the immunity function is abnormal and fails to identify such cells, it is likely to result in cancer."

Shao's team studied 2,796 relevant immunity genes through gene-editing technology and transplanted them into mice which had complete or deformed immunities.

After many rounds of research, they located Lectin galactose-binding soluble 2, or LGALS2, as the key gene helping the triple-negative breast cancer avoid the monitoring of the immunity system.

Further animal experiments using medication, which can work on LGALS2, all returned positive results by restricting the cancer growth.

"We hope the discovery can help break the bottleneck of triple-negative breast cancer treatment and offer new chances and possibilities for patients' long survival," Shao said.

The discovery was published by Science Advances.

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