Michel L. Tremblay A team lead by Michel L. Tremblay at the Cancer Centre at McGill University has revealed the role played by a gene associated with the transmission of breast cancer in two of five affected women.

Their study shows that halting the activity of this gene in mice predisposed to cancer slowed the growth of — and in some cases, prevented — tumors.

According to Dr. Michel L. Tremblay, Director of the McGill Centre for Cancer Research, “The gene we identified, PTP1b, is known for its role in diabetes and obesity. In this new study, we found that the role of PTP1b in modulating metabolism is equally crucial in the promotion of the proliferation and metastasis of cancer tumors.”

The study has been published in the magazine Nature Genetics. An article published by the same group of researchers in Science in 1999 showed that suppressing the enzyme produced by the gene PTP1b made it possible to cure type II diabetes and obesity. A large number of pharmaceutical companies have since developed new inhibitors used in treatments for these diseases.

“Adapting these compounds is all that is needed to attack breast cancer,” added Dr. Tremblay.

“Although this study is simply a genetic and pharmacologic validation in mice, we know that 30% to 40% of all cases of breast cancer involve different levels of over-expression of PTP1b — which is a much greater proportion than is found in cases linked to hereditary baggage,” maintained Dr. Tremblay.