SINGAPORE - Scientists at A*STAR's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) have discovered a new "cooperating" cancer gene that could serve as a biomarker in the diagnosis of breast cancer.
On its own, SOCS5 is a gene that appears to be harmless and has little or no impact on cancer. But in cooperation with other cancer genes, the combination causes aggressive cancer, which neither would cause alone.
"We were very surprised by our finding because this it the first time that the Socs gene family is found to be linked to cancer. Previously it has only been associated with immunological disorders," said Mr Xin Hong, a PhD student and the co-first author of the study.
This potential biomarker was discovered through a fast and cost-saving method devised by the team to uncover genetic changes that have a higher potential to cause cancer.
The method, which involves using the fruit fly as a genetic model, allows researchers to rapidly distinguish the range of genetic changes that are causally linked to cancer.
SOCS5 is one of the several new "cooperating" cancer genes to be identified through this innovative approach.
"Many genetic changes arise in cancer cells and changes continue to accumulate during the progression of disease to metastatic cancer,' said Dr. Stephen Cohen, Principal Investigator at IMCB and team leader of the paper.
"The current challenge is to understand which of the many genetic changes are important drivers of disease progression," he added.
The discovery of the method paves the way for doctors to design more targeted treatment against the different cancer types, based on the specific cancer-linked mutations present in the patient.
It is expected to help advance the development of personalised medicine in cancer care and treatment.