Important Breakthrough in Breast Cancer Research: TONSL Gene Discovered

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We have such exciting news! A team of researchers led by KTB Scientific Advisor Dr. Hari Nakshatri has pinpointed a new target gene for breast cancer drug development. This gene, called TONSL, is amplified in about 20% of breast cancers, and more than 30% of metastatic cases.

Based on their research, the team suggests TONSL is a regulator of epithelial cell immortalization that can play a key role in cancer initiation and is a new target for breast cancer treatment.

Dr. Nakshatri, who is Marian J. Morrison Chair in Breast Cancer Research at Indiana University School of Medicine, explains that most of the cancer research to date is focused on understanding what happens when cancer progresses, but this is a huge breakthrough because it has been very hard to figure out how cancer first begins.

The research team analyzed RNA-seq data (laboratory tools used to detect the expression of thousands of genes at the same time) of healthy breast cells from the KTB. Nakshatri’s lab has developed a method to grow these cells and use them as controls.

Nakshatri explained that by comparing normal cells with cells artificially made to grow continuously from the same donor—thus mimicking the earliest event in the cancer path—they have been able to identify genomic changes that happen at the earliest stage of cancer initiation.

To hear Dr. Nakshatri explain this work in his own words, please watch this live interview with evening anchor Shelley Kirk of WEHT/WTVW Eyewitness News Evansville.

You can click here to read the peer-reviewed, published manuscript about this discovery.