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Could Mutant P53 Protein Be Used As A Breast Cancer Marker?

PHILADELPHIA (April 10, 2002) - Scientists at Fox Chase Cancer Center are constantly looking for better methods of detecting breast cancer in the simplest, least invasive manner.

Gabriela Balough, PhD, a staff scientist at Fox Chase Cancer Center and her colleagues, have conducted a study looking at a specific protein known as p53, a tumor suppressor protein involved with DNA transcription, which is the process of copying or duplicating genetic information.

When damage to DNA is unrepairable, the p53 gene induces apoptosis, or cell suicide. However, when the p53 gene mutates, it allows cancer to develop and grow. The mutant p53 gene is the most frequent molecular alteration in human cancer, including breast cancer.

Balough and members of her team analyzed the genetic alterations in p53 oncogene expression in 49 patients with breast cancer at different stages and in 14 normal women. Prior to breast surgery, Balough obtained samples of serum, which is the clear, watery portion of the blood, of 49 women with breast cancer and 14 women without the disease. She and her colleagues measured the serum levels of p53 mutant protein and of p53 antibodies in both groups of women.

The antibody analysis detected 7 cases of positive p53 antibody in the 49 women with breast cancer and none in the controls. Fifty-five percent or 27 out of 49 of the women with breast cancer had the p53 mutant protein and as did two of the women in the control group.

The researchers concluded that these data suggest that detection of mutated p53 could be a useful serum marker for diagnostic purposes. These findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research in San Francisco on April 10, 2002.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, one of the nation's first comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute in 1974, conducts basic and clinical research; programs of prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach.

For more information about Fox Chase activities, visit the Center's web site at or call 1-888-FOX CHASE.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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