Cluster of genes is biomarker for breast cancer recurrence

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy (chemotherapy given before the main cancer treatment) can trigger a complete response in around 30% of patients with breast cancer, but for the majority, some cancer will remain, and for these patients the chance of recurrence, metastasis and death is higher. Knowing which patients are more likely to recur will help physicians personalize treatment and monitor recurrence, and researchers at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center have found a pattern of genes that could be used as a biomarker in these patients.

In the study, published in Nature Medicine, the researchers profiled the tumors of breast cancer patients who had received neoadjuvant chemotherapy and found groups of genes that could be linked with the cancers that were resistant to chemotherapy. They named these 244 genes the cluster signature.

The team also spotted that low levels of a protein, dual specificity protein phosphatase 4 (DUSP4), signposted faster tumor growth and a lower response to chemotherapy.

"These data suggest that … low DUSP4 expression in residual resected breast tumors is a potential biomarker for drug resistance and a high likelihood of tumor recurrence," said lead author Justin Balko.

- read the press release
- check out the abstract