Discovery of gene in aggressive spread of cancer

Breast examination Scientists have found a gene which may trigger an aggressive form of cancer

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Edinburgh scientists believe they have found a gene which triggers the spread of an aggressive form of breast cancer.

The discovery could herald new treatments for the 9,000 women affected in the UK each year.

They have been studying a disease known as HER2 positive breast cancer, which represents about 20% of all breast cancer cases.

It is an aggressive form which grows and spreads more quickly than other forms of the disease.

At the moment it is treated with the drug herceptin, which prevents the cancer cells multiplying. Scientists hope this discovery will help them develop a new treatment.

Research leader Dr Elad Katz, of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Unit, said: "For a long time we have been concentrating on the protein HER2 but now we have this gene that could well be responsible for the spread of the cancer.

"It causes the cells to detach from the original tumour and to start spreading inside the breast and further afield. This is absolutely critical because we know that the spread of the cancer is what kills the patient.

"We are at an early stage but there is now a real possibility there could be a new treatment for women with HER2-positive breast cancer."

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