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Researchers uncover secrets of drug-resistant breast cancer

Category: Breast

Many women who receive positive breast cancer tests are advised to begin taking the drug tamoxifen. It shuts down receptors in cancerous cells that fuel growth, which prevents tumors from returning after surgery. Yet, some individuals are resistant to the effects of the drug.

A new study from researchers at the University of California, San Francisco may have found tamoxifen, which they described as a "miracle drug" for some women, is ineffective in certain patients.

The researchers showed that when a woman takes tamoxifen to fight breast cancer, the cancer cells sometimes respond by activating a gene known as AKT. This is known as the "survival" gene, and gets expressed in order to spur cell growth and replication. These characteristics make tumor cells resistant to tamoxifen.

Fortunately, the team said there are already medications available the suppress expression of the AKT gene. Pairing these medications with tamoxifen may help improve the chances that a woman with breast cancer will respond to the treatment.

"Understanding the mechanism of tamoxifen resistance and how to defeat it may help a large number of women with hormone-resistant breast cancer," said lead researcher Pamela Munster.

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