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World experts in breast cancer research gather in Sacramento

 "" PHOTO John M. Boone
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The OncoMouse, patented by Harvard University in 1988, has proved a valuable model of human breast cancer. UC Davis researchers hope to advance use of the mice in the earliest phases of new drug testing, in order to reduce risks to human volunteers and speed the drug development process.
   

The promise of mouse models of human breast cancer drew nearly 400 scientists from around the world to the 24th Congress of the International Association for Breast Cancer Research, held in November at the Sacramento Convention Center. Breast cancer advocates and biotech industry leaders from around the country also participated.

UC Davis Cancer Center hosted the congress, which was sponsored by the National Cancer Institute's Mouse Models of Human Cancers Consortium and Specialized Programs of Research Excellence, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Women's Health and the California Breast Cancer Research Program.

Robert D. Cardiff, professor of pathology at UC Davis School of Medicine and Medical Center, served as congress director. Regarded as one of the world's foremost mouse pathologists, Cardiff saw the meeting as an opportunity for leaders from industry, government and science to explore collaborative new ways to better deliver research discoveries to breast cancer patients.

"Our understanding of these mouse models has reached the point that they should be rapidly deployed to help alleviate human suffering," he said. The Sacramento meeting drew extensive local, national and international media attention with announcements of research breakthroughs.

  • Cardiff and William J. Muller of McGill University in Montreal reported reversing breast cancer in laboratory mice by blocking genetic switches that govern the disease.
  • University of Pennsylvania researchers reported on a novel mouse model of human breast cancer engineered to enable scientists to turn on cogenes on or off at will, using a triggering agent. Investigators from the
  • University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center in Ann Arbor released the news that they had successfully grown breast cancer tissue from both human and mouse mammary stem cells, suggesting the stem cells may be a factor in breast cancer recurrences — and an important new target for breast cancer therapy.

A panel of experts also gathered before the news media to discuss intellectual property rights issues that some scientists say create barriers to use of genetically engineered mice in breast cancer research. Founded in the mid-1950s, the International Association for Breast Cancer Research is an international community of scientists focused on the important issues in modern breast cancer research. The Sacramento meeting was the organization's first devoted to preclinical models of human breast cancer research.

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