Obtaining a genetic picture of how a tumour will react to the many treatment techniques available could help doctors prescribe therapies customised for individual cancer patients' needs, suggests a Purdue University research team.

A group of scientists including Jian-Jian Li has found a trio of proteins often present in cancer cells that protect the tumour from destruction by radiotherapy. Because no single protein in the group is responsible for keeping the cancer alive, Li said that the key to a successful assault could rest in a deeper understanding of the relationship among these protein molecules - an understanding that could be made available through genetic testing.

"We have discovered that breast cancer cells defend themselves on the molecular level against radiation, and this response could be reducing the effectiveness of modern medicine's fight against cancer," said Li, associate professor of health sciences in Purdue's School of Health Sciences.

"Because these three proteins interact in ways peculiar to each tumour, it might help doctors to first obtain the genetic fingerprint of cancerous tissue in order to find out which treatment method will be most effective", she added.

In the case of breast cancer cells, the proteins in question are ERK, NF-kappa B and GADD45 beta. But Li said that this was probably the first of many discoveries that relate proteins to one another in such a fashion.

"These three proteins are most likely the tip of the iceberg," Li said. "This discovery is all about interaction, which goes beyond any one protein or gene expression. People used to think NF-kappa B was just a gene regulator. Now we realise it could be part of a signalling network that decides the pattern of gene expression."

MEDICA.de; Source: Purdue University Cancer Center