CNRCS Researchers Explore Gene Expression as Breast Cancer Treatment

University of Houston Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling (CNRCS) professor Cecilia Williams has authored her second cancer cell study in as many months for the journal Molecular Endocrinology, following a June cover story which featured her work with colon cancer cell lines. Williams’ latest study explored the impact of estrogen hormones in treating tumors stemming from breast cancer, the most common cancer among women in the United States.

“Building on our research reported in the June issue, we examined the influence of estrogen on gene expression as a way of targeting and treating breast cancer tumor cells,” said Williams. “The results of our research will open new opportunities for treating cancer through cancer therapeutics, such as hormone therapy.”

Williams and her team of researchers worked with estrogen hormone receptors, which regulate gene expression, to learn more about the mechanism by which estrogen induces growth of breast cancer tumor cells. The team was successfully able to identify the gene KCNK5, a potassium channel found in tissues such as the liver, pancreas, small intestine and kidney, as a key gene involved in this growth induction.

The results of the study demonstrated that KCNK5 was highly induced by the activation of the estrogen receptors in breast cancer cell lines and is required for tumor cell growth. With this new knowledge, CNRCS researchers confirmed the potential of KCNK5 as a target for breast cancer therapeutics. Hormone therapy treatments add, block or remove hormones from the body to combat the growth of cancer cells.

Molecular Endocrinology provides a forum for papers devoted to describing molecular mechanisms by which hormones and related compounds regulate function. The journal has a reputation as a high visibility research publication with rapid communication of cutting edge science.

UH biology and biochemistry professor Stuart Dryer, research assistant professor Christoforos Thomas, and graduate students Claudia Alvarez-Baron and Philip Jonsson collaborated on the study. The research was funded in part with a grant from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund.

To view the abstract online, visit