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The study, which was published in Nature Cell Biology, looked at laboratory mice who had their Elf5 removed, and found that not only were the animals unable to make milk, but the cells in the mammary glands also began to resemble stem cells, which is usually a sign of cancer.
"We found that when Elf5 levels are low or absent, epithelial cells become more like stem cells, morphing into mesenchymal cells, changing their shape and appearance and migrating elsewhere in the body. This is how cancer spreads," said study author Satrajit Sinha, Ph.D.
The researchers reported that these findings may be useful in treating and diagnosing breast cancer and possibly other forms of cancer. According to Dr. Sinha, one useful way to utilize the research is to mimic the repressive effects of Elf5 in a manufactured drug. The researchers are currently mapping the activity of the molecule to see how it operates in a larger bodily system.
Breast cancer statistics
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), not counting skin cancer, breast cancer, which can be diagnosed with a lab test, is the most common form of cancer in women and it's the most common cause of death by cancer for Hispanic women. Also, among white, black, Asian/Pacific Islander and Native American women, it has the second highest fatality rate due to cancer. The source also notes that in 2008, a total of 210,203 women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 40,589 people died from the condition.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) reports that the rate of breast cancer diagnosis and fatality usually rises with age. Also, 95 percent of new cases of breast cancer and 97 percent of deaths attributed to the disease were in women who were at least 40 years old, from 2011 to 2012.
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