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Kevin Dalby Contributes to Breast Cancer Drug Discovery Study “Differential functions of ERK1 and ERK2 in lung metastasis processes in triple-negative breast cancer”

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Kevin Dalby, along with a team of scientists based at MD Anderson, TX, released a recent study that examined the mechanisms of metastasis of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) an aggressive subtype of breast cancer. 

TNBC accounts for 10-15% of all breast cancers. With no available US Food and Drug Administration-approved targeted pharmaceuticals, TNBC patients face three major issues when it comes to treatment – drug resistance, high rates of recurrence, and metastasis which reduces their recovery chances.

The study maps the effects of two ERK isoforms (ERK1 and ERK2) on TNBC patients. Those with high ERK2-expressing tumors were found to have a poor prognosis compared to patients with low levels of ERK2. The study provides evidence that ERK1 and ERK2 have functionally distinct properties and that ERK2, not ERK1, primarily contributes to lung metastasis in a TNBC patient.

By understanding the differential roles and functional redundancy behind the two isoforms, Dr. Dalby and the team behind the study worked to improve diagnoses and develop targeted pharmaceuticals for TNBC treatment.

The Austin-based professor says, “With the growing appreciation of the underlying pathways driving different cancers, researchers are now targeting specific pathways. Ultimately, through primary research endeavors, scientists hope to arm clinicians with specialized tool kits of agents from which to create tailored combinations explicitly formulated for particular types of cancers. Ideally, this approach would mean attacking the disease via multiple targets within a tumor.”

Dr. Dalby works hard to offer a hopeful perspective to cancer patients who have all but given up on the hope of finding a cure. He believes that although there is still a long way to go, scientists are on track to finding more cures for cancers. He says, “Before cancer was trapped in a black box, now one gets the sense that we’re lifting the lid and letting some light through. We do see successes.”

About Kevin Dalby

Professor Kevin Dalby has made significant contributions to cancer research. Dr. Dalby also works on research projects in other areas including biochemistry, cell biology, chemical biology, and drug discovery – all aimed at developing targeted pharmaceuticals for different cancers. Kevin Dalby is also the director of The Targeted Therapeutic Drug Discovery & Development Program (TTP), and the principal investigator on a CPRIT core facility grant that gives Texas scientists access to resources for drug discovery research.