A research team at Sultan Qaboos University led by Dr. Sirin Adham from the Department of Biology, College of Science, has found circulating proteins in the blood and immune cells of Omani breast cancer patients which clearly distinguished between the hormone independent type of breast cancer know as triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) and all other types of hormone dependent breast cancers. It is important to note that triple negative breast cancer is the worst subtype of breast cancer since it lacks the hormone receptors used as targets for treatment and therefore, it counts for the increase in mortality rates in women worldwide in general and in Oman in particular. The percentage of women in Oman affected with this type of breast cancer is known to be higher than those reported worldwide.
The researchers at SQU tested the blood samples of Omani breast cancer patients and respective healthy controls. They found that certain molecules are capable to distinguish TNBC subtype from the other subtypes of breast cancer. This result can be translated into the design of a targeted therapy based on the development of immunological antibodies which directly target these proteins. The molecules that were found circulating and expressed in breast tumor tissue are mainly two proteins known as Neuropilin-1 (NRP-1) and circulating placental growth factor (PlGF) which were increased in advanced nodal and metastatic breast cancer compared with locally advanced disease and particularly elevated in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) compared to other subtypes. Finally, the researchers also found that the age of the patient plays a role in the levels of these molecules which emphasizes on the need to precisely prescribe the precise treatment. This work supports the importance of these molecules in circulation to characterize poor prognosis breast cancer and emphasizes on their role as favorable drug targets. This work was published internationally in “Scientific Reports” a journal of the Nature publishing group.
Besides Dr. Sirin Adham, the work was done by the postdoctoral fellow Dr. Adviti Naik, PhD candidate Noura Al Zeheimi, Maysoon Basheer and Dr. Charles Bakeit from college of Science and in collaboration with college of Medicine represented by Professor Mansour Al Moundhri, Dr. Adil Al Ajmi, Dr. Marwa Al Riyami and Mrs. Zamzam Al Habsi.