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New hope for breast cancer patients

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer
Queen’s University researcher Xiaolong Yang has discovered the key to understanding how breast cancer patients become resistant to chemotherapy. This discovery could lead to more successful breast cancer treatment.
“We have identified a protein that may be critical in causing the resistance of breast cancer cells to antitubulin drugs, a group of chemotherapeutic drugs commonly used for the treatment of breast and lung cancer,” explains Dr. Yang, an associate professor in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine.
 Xiaolong Yang
The research group led by Dr. Yang has discovered that antitubulin drugs kill breast cancer cells by inactivating a protein called YAP, which is critical for protecting cancer cells from drug-induced cell death. However, when the YAP protein becomes immune to drug-triggered inactivation, it can protect cancer cells from dying.
This discovery suggests that the YAP protein status can be used as a marker in predicting antitubulin drug response in patients which could lead to more effective chemotherapy.
Dr. Yang’s research team including PhD candidate Yulei Zhao, Prem Khanal, a Terry Fox Transdisciplinary Postdoc Fellow, and Paul Savage (Artsci’11), currently an MD/PhD student at McGill University, collaborated on the research with Drs. Yi-Min She and Terry Cyr at Health Canada.
This research, which was funded by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, was published online in the journal Cancer Research.