Vitamin A derivative provides clues to better breast cancer drugs

Retinoic acid, a derivative of vitamin A, could lead researchers to a new set of drug targets for treating breast cancer, researchers from the University of Chicago report in the June 25, 2009, issue of the journal Cell.

The most common forms of breast cancer are fueled by the female hormone estrogen. By comparing the effects of estrogen and retinoic acid on the entire genome, the researchers found that they have a "yin-yang" effect. They alter the expression of many of the same genes, with estrogen tipping the scales towards cell proliferation and retinoic acid restoring the balance by inhibiting cellular growth.

This balanced control of gene expression regulates fundamental cellular processes, say the authors. When it is dysregulated, it can lead to cancer.

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