Researchers at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, have identified a protein that protects against breast tumor growth, which could be linked to a better prognosis in patients with breast cancer, according to Science Daily.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, could help develop new therapies for aggressive or difficult-to-treat breast cancers.

Breast cancer affects about 10% of women during their lifetime. It is a major medical and societal burden. There are very few treatment options available for ER-negative breast cancers, which lack estrogen receptors (ER), failing to respond to hormonal therapy.

Triple-negative breast cancers, in particular, are more difficult to treat, as they lack ER as well as progesterone receptor and HER2 receptor.

The study author Prof. Per Uhlén of Karolinska Institutet said, “Identification of new molecular mechanisms that regulate the growth of ER-negative breast cancer is warranted, as these mechanisms may represent novel therapeutic targets.”

Prof. Uhlén and his team have identified a new mechanism by which the protein GIT1 regulates so-called Notch signaling, affecting the initiation and growth of ER-negative breast cancer, per Science Daily.

“Our results provide important information about a mechanism that controls the initiation and growth of breast tumors,” explained Prof. Uhlén. “We hope that these findings will inform the development of new therapies for patients with difficult-to-treat breast cancer.”

Prof. Uhlén and colleagues are actively collaborating with doctors treating patients with breast cancer.

He said, “We want to conduct research that can benefit patients with severe diseases. At Karolinska Institutet, we have state-of-the-art tools and equipment that can push the development of new therapies.”