IISER Bhopal researchers identify breast cancer progression mechanism

The findings have important implications in designing therapeutic interventions for breast cancer as in India

Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Bhopal researchers have shown the mechanism by which breast cancer cells proliferate and spread. The findings have important implications in designing therapeutic interventions for breast cancer. 

The IISER team studied the regulation of one particular gene called ‘ESRP1’ in breast cancer. The researchers found that there is a difference in the expression of the ESRP1 gene between normal and tumour tissues of breast cancer patients. The researchers explore the regulatory mechanism behind ESRP1 upregulation in breast tumour tissues. 

A team of researchers from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Bhopal, led by Dr Sanjeev Shukla, Associate Professor, and DBT/Wellcome Trust India Alliance Fellow, Department of Biological Sciences, IISER Bhopal, undertook this research. The work was supported by DBT/Wellcome Trust India Alliance Fellowship Grant.

The team’s recent breakthrough in understanding has been published in  Oncogenesis, in a paper co-authored by Neha Ahuja, PhD Student, IISER Bhopal, Dr Ashok Cheemala, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, IISER Bhopal, Subhashis Natua, BS-MS Student, IISER Bhopal, and Dr Sanjeev Shukla.

Dr Shukla said, “Our research, for the first time, shows the reason behind an elevated expression of a key gene, ESRP1, in breast tumour tissue supporting tumour progression. Another important part of the discovery was a novel epigenetic regulatory mechanism that governs ESRP1 downregulation in hypoxic tumour tissue, which might help the cancer cells to evade the surrounding tissue and enter the bloodstream. Our research further suggests that E2F1 could be a molecular drug target to inhibit the growth of both normoxic as well as hypoxic breast cancer cells.”

Dr Shukla and his team found that in tumour tissues, a transcription factor called E2F1 that regulates transcription of ESRP1 gets upregulated, thereby increasing its expression and eventually leading to excessive growth of breast cancer cells. Another interesting finding by the research team was on the mechanistic aspects of cancer spread to other parts of the body or metastasis. Cancerous tumours develop regions of reduced oxygen due to poor blood circulation.

“Our research shows that there is orchestrated activation of ESRP1 in breast cancer, depending on the tumour microenvironment,” added Dr Shukla. 


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