HER2 drives an increased hypoxic response in breast cancer
Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre scientists provide new insights into the role of HER2 in breast cancer cell signalling in hypoxia: February 2019
Tumour hypoxia is the situation where tumour cells have been deprived of oxygen. As a tumour grows, it rapidly outgrows its blood supply, leaving portions of the tumour with regions where the oxygen concentration is significantly lower than in healthy tissues. Cancer cells are frequently found to alter their internal processes in order to support continuous growth and proliferation in such hypoxic conditions.
In breast cancer hypoxia is a driver of tumour progression associated with worse prognosis and more aggressive disease. Consequently, elucidating mechanisms involved in response to hypoxia may offer new therapeutic opportunities.
A recent study, led by Drs Simon Langdon, Edward Jarman and Andrew Sims from the Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre and published in the journal “Breast Cancer Research”, provides important new insights into how HER2 overexpression can be involved in response of breast cancer cells to hypoxia through regulation of the hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) family of transcription factors. HER2 is a protein known as a tyrosine kinase. It is a member of the human epidermal growth factor receptor family. Amplification or overexpression of this oncogene is known to play an important role in the development and progression of certain aggressive types of breast cancer. The study by Edinburgh’s researchers points to the potential of targeting HIF-2α as a therapy for HER2-positive breast cancer.