Having Fragile X Syndrome May Protect Against Breast Cancer
Claudia Bagni (VIB/KU Leuven, Belgium, and the University of Rome, Italy) and colleagues have identified the way Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein or FMRP contributes to the progression of breast cancer. The researchers demonstrated that FMRP acts as a master switch controlling the levels of several proteins involved in different stages of aggressive breast cancer, including the invasion of cancer cells into blood vessels and the spread of these cancer cells to other tissues forming metastasis. The work is published online in EMBO Molecular Medicine.
The authors identified high levels of FMRP in human breast cancer tissue microarrays and also examined the effects of FMRP levels in a mouse model to study breast cancer. In these mice, high levels of FMRP in primary breast cancer tumors were also linked to the spread of the cancer to the lungs and the development of metastasis. Importantly, reduction of FMRP led to a decrease of metastasis formation and protection against breast cancer in individuals lacking this protein.
“Previous studies indicated that patients with Fragile X Syndrome had a decreased risk of developing cancer but little is known about the molecular events that lead to this beneficial effect. We showed that high levels of the FMRP protein in human breast tissue samples are linked to increased risk of breast cancer and the spread of the disease to other tissues throughout the body,” Claudia Bagni remarked. “Our results suggest that FMRP acts as a master regulator of a large group of mRNAs that are involved in multiple steps of cancer progression.”