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Can epigenetic drugs turn on the tumour suppressor gene FRK in triple negative breast cancers?

One CBCF-funded researcher is taking a closer look at the epigenetic regulation of the tumour suppressor gene FRK in triple negative breast cancers.

Dr. Kiven Erique Lukong and his breast cancer research lab at the University of Saskatchewan are studying the FRK expression in the various breast cancer cell lines, followed by a comprehensive breast tumour sample analysis. FRK is a candidate tumour suppressor gene and its expression (function) is lost in a significant number of triple negative breast cancers.

Our goal is to study the FRK gene in breast cancer cell lines and tumours for evidence of epigenetic changes in the hope it will play a tumour suppressor role,” explains Dr. Lukong. “Uncovering the mechanism of FRK repression may reveal new diagnostic or targeted treatment opportunities for triple negative breast cancers.

Tumour suppressor genes usually encode proteins that regulate some aspect of cell growth. Loss of function or expression of these gene products is a hallmark of most cancers.

As part of this study, we’ll also research options to reverse the loss of expression – or silencing – with epigenetic drugs,” says Dr. Lukong.

There is evidence suggesting this loss of protein function is controlled at the “epigenetic level,” a mechanism that turns genes off or on, but does not alter the DNA sequence. FRK loss seems to be common in triple negative tumours, which are especially aggressive and difficult to treat.

The complete study is expected to take at least three years, including tumour sample analysis. When finished, the results will impact our understanding of triple negative breast cancer, and potentially introduce new diagnostic or targeted treatment options for this breast cancer subset. 

About the Grant

The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation - Prairies/NWT Region supports high-quality research in all areas including biology of breast cancer, prevention, screening, early detection, diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, cancer control, psychosocial, health care delivery and outcomes.

Dr. Lukong - Thank You Message.jpgThe Region’s investments are made with a strategic focus on the impact on the lives of those most affected by breast cancer, including reducing disease burden; improving experiences/quality of life; and increasing knowledge about breast cancer prevention and treatment.

Area of focus: Targeted treatments

Information about the research team:

  • Dr. Keith Bonham, Senior Research Scientist at the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency and Professor, Division of Oncology at the University of Saskatchewan

  • Dr. Deborah Anderson, Senior Research Scientist at the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency and Professor, Division of Oncology at the University of Saskatchewan