U of M researchers make breast cancer discovery - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

U of M researchers make breast cancer discovery

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MINNEAPOLIS (KTTC) -- In the United States alone, more than 240,000 women are fighting a long battle against breast cancer. While progress has been made on the research front, one University of Minnesota researcher may have discovered what causes the cancer to begin with.

It is called APOBEC3B and researcher Reuben Harris says that this enzyme is the first clear evidence of a mutation that leads to breast cancer.

It was a thought Reuben Harris formulated in England years ago, and now it could be the breakthrough those battling breast cancer have been waiting for.

"Most tumors have many, many, even thousands of mutations, but it's not known what causes those mutations. What we've identified is a major source of mutation in breast cancer."

APOBEC3B, one of nine enzymes Harris and his team found that mutates in our body, but the only one he found that had high activity levels in breast cancer.

"So, prior to this, we thought about most mutations in cancer as things we couldn't control. Now, for the first time, this is something that we can control. It's an enzyme, it's a potentially actionable target."

He equates this discovery to that of UV rays and their effect on the skin, mutating cells to create skin cancer.

"Now that we've identified this source, which is equivalent to UV and sunshine, we can work on strategies to start it."

As research continued, they discovered ways to protect against the UV rays. It is the idea of strategies for battle that has Harris and his team excited, a line of research that could lead to the end of the disease for good.

"This enzyme is contributing to a higher level of mutation in cancer, then one thing we'd like to do next is turn down its activity. So, we'd like to know more about how its regulated so that we may be able to do that."

It could be the breakthrough hundreds of thousands of people have been waiting for, the tangible progress decades in the making.

As Reuben Harris said, they now believe that the enzyme is something that is in their realm of control. Just knowing that could lead to preventive measures for breast cancer, or even get them closer to their ultimate goal of eliminating the cancer completely.

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