Public Release:  VCU Massey Cancer Center finds new biomarker that predicts breast cancer relapse

Virginia Commonwealth University

Richmond, Va. (May 16, 2011) - Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center have discovered a new biomarker related to the body's immune system that can predict a breast cancer patients' risk of cancer recurrence. This breakthrough may lead to new genetic testing that further personalizes breast cancer care.

The study, published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, is the first to use tumor infiltrating immune cells located at the site of the tumor to predict cancer recurrence. Using tissue samples from breast cancer patients, researchers found that a specific, five-gene signature related to tumor infiltrating immune cells can accurately predict relapse-free survival. Currently, there are two main tests used to predict the risk of relapse in breast cancer patients, the Oncotype DX panel and the MammaPrint panel. Both of these tests focus on genes that are mainly expressed by tumor cells.

"We know that the body initiates an immune response when it detects cancer, and immune system cells are usually present at the site of the tumor," says the study's lead researcher, Masoud Manjili, D.V.M., Ph.D. assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at VCU Massey. "Our test differs from currently-used tests by looking for a biological response to the presence of cancer, and not relying on genes expressed by the actual cancer cells."

Tissue specimens were collected from female breast cancer patients and maintained in the VCU Massey Cancer Center Tissue & Data Acquisition and Analysis Core (TDAAC) over the past seven years. "We studied data from 17 patients. Of these patients, we had eight that relapsed within five years and nine that have remained cancer-free up to seven years," says Manjili. The five-gene signature was found to predict relapse in these patients with over 85 percent accuracy.

Manjili and his team will next study tissue samples from a larger patient sample to further validate the findings in this study. They also intend to test their findings in a long-term study of breast cancer patients undergoing treatment.

"Our findings could lead to clinical trials that test whether using immunotherapy prior to conventional treatments in breast cancer patients with a high risk of relapse could prime the patients' immune system, much like a vaccine, to prevent the likelihood of relapse," says Manjili.

###

The full study results can be found online at: http://www.springerlink.com/content/n1g20u30263t1321/.

Manjili collaborated on this study with Maria Libera Ascierto, Ena Wang, M.D., Fancesco M. Marincola, Ph.D., and Yingdong Zhao, Ph.D., from the National Institutes of Health; and Maciej Kmieciak, Ph.D., Rose Manjili, Michael O. Idowu, M.D., M.P.H., Margaret Grimes, M.D., Catherine Dumur, Ph.D., Viswanathan Ramakrishnan, Ph.D., Xiang-Yang Wang, Ph.D., and Harry D. Bear, M.D., Ph.D., from VCU Massey Cancer Center.

News directors: Broadcast access to VCU Massey Cancer Center experts is available through VideoLink ReadyCam. ReadyCam transmits video and audio via fiber optics through a system that is routed to your newsroom. To schedule a live or taped interview, contact John Wallace, (804) 628-1550.

About VCU Massey Cancer Center

VCU Massey Cancer Center is one of only 66 National Cancer Institute-designated institutions in the country that leads and shapes America's cancer research efforts. Working with all kinds of cancers, the Center conducts basic, translational and clinical cancer research, provides state-of-the-art treatments and clinical trials, and promotes cancer prevention and education. Since 1974, Massey has served as an internationally recognized center of excellence. It has one of the largest offerings of clinical trials in Virginia and serves patients in Richmond and in four satellite locations. Its 1,000 researchers, clinicians and staff members are dedicated to improving the quality of human life by developing and delivering effective means to prevent, control and ultimately to cure cancer. Visit Massey online at www.massey.vcu.edu or call 877-4-MASSEY for more information.

About VCU and the VCU Medical Center

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located on two downtown campuses in Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 32,000 students in 211 certificate and degree programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-nine of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU's 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University compose the VCU Medical Center, one of the nation's leading academic medical centers. For more, see www.vcu.edu.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.