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Interleukin-13 receptor alpha 2 Biomarker May Help Improve Treatment of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

by Dr. C.H. Weaver M.D. 9/1/2017

Known as interleukin-13 receptor alpha 2 (IL13Ralpha2), the biomarker may help doctors identify patients at high risk of disease spread and potentially provide a target for treatment. These findings were reported in Breast Cancer Research.

The majority of breast cancers are hormone receptor-positive, meaning that the cancer cells are stimulated to grow from exposure to the female hormones estrogen and/or progesterone. Other breast cancers are referred to as HER2-positive, which means that they overexpress the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, a biologic pathway that is involved in replication and growth of a cell.

Breast cancers, on the other hand, that are not stimulated to grow from exposure to estrogen or progesterone and do not overexpress HER2 (HER2 negative) are called triple-negative breast cancers. Triple-negative breast cancers tend to be more aggressive than other breast cancers and have fewer treatment options because hormonal therapies that target hormone receptors or HER2 are ineffective.

Because patients with triple-negative breast cancer have limited treatment options, finding effective therapies is an important area of research. In a recent study, researchers sought to understand more about how these cancers grow and spread and find targets they could use for treatment of this type of disease. Namely, they investigated genes that help triple-negative breast cancer spread.

To identify potential drivers of growth in triple-negative breast cancer and targets for treatment, the researchers used different laboratory tests to find genes involved in the growth of breast cancer tumors that spread to the lungs (metastasis). Specifically, they looked at the role of the protein (or biomarker) IL13Ralpha2 in breast tumor growth and spread.

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According to the study’s findings, triple-negative and metastatic breast cancer tumors were more likely to overexpress IL13Ralpha2 than other types of breast tumors. In addition, patients with higher IL13Ralpha2 levels were more likely to develop breast cancer metastasis compared with those with lower levels.

This association between IL13Ralpha2 and tumor metastasis in triple-negative breast cancer can potentially be applied to treatment. Using mice, the researchers found that when they reduced levels of IL13Ralpha2 in metastatic cancer cells, the primary tumor didn’t grow quite as quickly and lung metastasis was significantly reduced.

Based on these findings, IL13Ralpha2 might help advance the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer. The protein may help doctors identify patients at risk for cancer spread and also be an effective target for therapy to prevent metastasis.

Reference: Papageorgis P, Ozturk S, Lambert AW, et al. Targeting IL13Ralpha2 activates STAT6-TP63 pathway to suppress breast cancer lung metastasis. Breast Cancer Research. 2015 July 25;17(1):98. doi: 10.1186/s13058-015-0607-y.

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