UNMC breast cancer researcher pushes science forward with revealing research

UNMC breast cancer researcher pushes science forward with revealing research

Every three minutes a woman in the United States is diagnosed with breast cancer. Her chances of survival depend on many variables, from the type of cancer she has to how early it is diagnosed.

Of those women, approximately one in five test positive for Her2, an aggressive type of breast cancer that is harder to fight because it is less responsive to hormonal therapy.

Now, thanks to the researcher of a University of Nebraska Medical Center scientist, strides are being made in dealing with Her2.

While trying to recreate the findings of a previous breast cancer study to determine therapeutic relevance, Kay-Uwe Wagner, Ph.D., and his former graduate student Qian Zhang, Ph.D., discovered something completely unexpected.

"It was always thought that by inhibiting a certain protein, Cyclin D1, the growth of breast cancer cells could be stopped or at least slowed," said Dr. Wagner, who is a professor in the UNMC Eppley Cancer Center.

Instead, he found the opposite to be true.

In collaboration with Hallgeir Rui, M.D., at the Kimmel Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Dr. Wagner’s team discovered that even though a significant subset of breast cancers produce Cyclin D1, the more deadly Her2-positive cases produce more of a similar protein called Cyclin D3.

"Both proteins are known for turning normal cells into cancer cells," he said.

The new research suggests that only the combined inhibition of both proteins might be enough to stop the uncontrolled growth of Her2-positive breast cancer cells.

"The next step will be to test drugs that can do precisely that," Dr. Wagner said.

Dr. Wagner’s findings were published in the December issue of Cancer Research, which is one of the most frequently cited cancer journals in the world. His work has subsequently been evaluated and selected for inclusion in the Faculty of 1000, a library which features the top-ranked articles in biology and medicine.

Through world-class research and patient care, UNMC generates breakthroughs that make life better for people throughout Nebraska and beyond. Its education programs train more health professionals than any other institution in the state. Learn more at unmc.edu.



Lisa Spellman
UNMC Public Relations
(402) 559-4353