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Breast cancer growth gene identified

HOUSTON, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- U.S. medical researchers say they have identified the gene that enables breast cancer growth and metastasis.

Baylor College of Medicine scientists say they've discovered a master gene called SRC-3 (steroid receptor coactivator 3) not only enhances estrogen-dependent growth of cancer cells by activating and encouraging the transcription of a genetic message into a protein, but it also sends a signal to the cell membrane to promote cell motility or movement.

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The researchers, led by Dr. Bert O'Malley, said their finding not only uncovers a new activity for SRC-3, it also explains how the epidermal growth factor receptor at the membrane gets a signal to the enzyme that tells the cell to move -- and ultimately grow -- allowing the cancer to invade surrounding tissue.

"Now we have a final picture as to why epidermal growth factor receptor and the estrogen receptor are the most dangerous combination of molecules overproduced in breast cancer," O'Malley said. "When they are both over functioning, people die quickly and are resistant to therapy."

The study that included scientists from the George Washington University Medical Center appears in the journal Molecular Cell.

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