A researcher and her team at the University at Albany received a $1.76 million grant from the National Institute to further their investigation on treating triple negative breast cancer with active vitamin D.
Breast cancer is the third leading cause of death, behind heart disease and lung cancer. One in eight women will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. Approximately 20% of women with breast cancer will be diagnosed with “triple negative” breast cancer (TNBC).
TNBC is a subtype of breast cancer that lacks the three most common types of receptors known to fuel breast cancer growth: estrogen, progesterone and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). Since common treatments target these receptors, TNBC is considered a more deadly form of breast cancer that does not respond to standard treatments.
Professor JoEllen Welsh and her team at the University of Albany are researching therapies to successfully halt TNBC. The National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute has granted Dr. Welsh and team a $1.76 million to help further her efforts.
Dr. Welsh and her team found that 1,25 vitamin D, the active form of vitamin D, suppresses the expression of a specific gene called hyaluronan synthase-2 (HAS2). HAS2 is overexpressed in certain TNBC tumors. HAS2 encodes for an enzyme that activates the cell receptor CD44 via its secretion of hyaluronic acid. TNBCs need CD44 to survive; therefore, discovering a way to stop or interrupt the signaling process holds promise for treatment.
“Women with TNBC whose tumors overexpress HAS2 have a significantly reduced survival, suggesting that targeting this gene is likely to have an impact on disease progression.”