Student Researcher: Milica Krstic, PhD student, Western University
Project Title: The role of transcriptional regulator TBX3 in early breast cancer progression
Transition of breast cancer from a non-invasive to invasive phenotype is associated with morbidity and mortality of the disease. Why some breast cancers progress and others don’t is not well understood. We have previously observed that breast cancer cells that have gained the ability to invade adjacent tissue express high levels of a protein called TBX3, while levels are low in normal breast tissue. Genetically engineering early breast cancer cells to overexpress TBX3 makes them more aggressive in both cell culture and animal models. We have also found TBX3 up-regulation in tumors from several patients with early-stage disease. Of great clinical importance is the need to identify patients with indolent pre-invasive cancers to avoid over-treatment. Recent studies have shown that many patients are undergoing unnecessary treatments with no measurable survival benefit. We are currently working to identify which precursor cancers are likely to progress to invasion in low-grade breast cancers through assessing TBX3 protein expression.