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Australian scientists' discovery may lead to first drug treatment to basal breast cancer

06-02-2011 14:43 BJT

CANBERRA, June 2 (Xinhua) -- A new Australian discovery could lead to the first ever drug treatment for people battling the most aggressive form of basal breast cancer, Australian scientists said on Thursday.

Basal breast cancer is a particularly aggressive form of the disease. It is typically found in younger women, and unlike other types of breast cancer there is no targeted treatment for it, so about all doctors can offer sufferers is chemotherapy.

In a world first, researchers at Australia's The Garvan Institute identified the "hedgehog" molecule, which, despite its innocent name, is to blame for the spread of basal breast cancer.

According to researcher and clinical Associate Professor Sandra O'Toole, scientists tested on 279 women with basal-like breast cancer revealed those packed with hedgehog molecules "did very badly".

Further trials on mice indicated that, if injected with high levels of the hedgehog molecules, the cancer was more aggressive and spread further.

However, Prof O'Toole said when the hedgehog was blocked, tumors were smaller and did not spread as far.

"(Basal breast cancer) does tend to affect younger women and the outcome for those patients, not always, but sadly too often, is quite bad," O'Toole was quoted by Australia Associated Press on Thursday.

"There's a real need to try and identify specific changes in those types of cancers that we can then target with drugs."

There are already clinical trials of drugs for silencing hedgehog in other types of cancer, and Professor O'Toole said the scientists are hopeful that those drugs might be able to be used in trials for the basal breast cancer.

She said the scientists are hoping a trial will be up and running within two or three years.

There are about 12,500 cases of breast cancer identified in Australia each year, and about 10 percent of these are basal.

Editor:Yang Jie |Source: Xinhua

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