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Gene key unlocks cancer treatment

The antagonist losartan may prove to be a key treatment for breast cancers where the gene AGTR1 is overexpressed, research has found.

This suggests that therapies targeted at specific molecular changes may be effective, according to a report in the June early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr Arul Chinnaiyan and colleagues at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, looked for gene overexpression in certain breast cancers that are ER-positive and ERBB2-negative.

ERBB2 overexpression is found in 30% of all breast cancers, with AGTR1, the gene for angiotensin II receptor type I, overexpressed in 10% to 20% of tumours.

While the growth of AGTR1 cancers is increased by angiotensin stimulation, treatment with losartan dramatically reduces growth.

Dr Chinnaiyan says: “Losartan may be a viable therapy for women with AGTR1 overexpressing breast tumours. This study lays the groundwork for a clinical trial to test losartan to treat breast cancers positive for AGTR1.”

Copyright Press Association 2009

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences