Impact of Cyclin D1 Isoforms in Breast Cancer

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Breast cancer is the most prevalent non-cutaneous malignancy, afflicting greater than one in ten women in the United States. Aberrant proliferation is a hallmark of cancer, and extensive study has demonstrated that specific cell cycle regulatory pathways are involved in the etiology, progression and treatment of breast cancer. Cyclin D1 is a proto-oncogene that is strongly implicated in breast cancer development and disease progression. Amplification of the cyclin D1 locus occurs in 10-15% of invasive breast cancer, and over expression of cyclin D1 protein is observed in approximately 50% of breast carcinomas. Cyclin D1 plays an important function in mammary tumor genesis, as mice deficient in cyclin D1 are resistant to tumor formation driven by specific oncogenes, while enforced expression of cyclin D1 can lead to mammary carcinoma. In spite of these findings, a number of important questions remain regarding the involvement of cyclin D1 in breast cancer; particularly with reference to disease severity, response to therapy and overall patient survival. It is now apparent that cyclin D1 actually exists in two isoforms, conventional cyclin D1 which has been the subject of all prior investigation in breast cancer and cyclin D1b. Cyclin D1b is produced as an alternative splicing product of the cyclin D1 gene and results in the loss of critical regulatory motifs in the C-terminus. The production of cyclin D1b is believed to be related to a common polymorphism that has been associated with enhanced cancer risk and poor clinical outcome. Importantly, we and others have found that cyclin D1b is distinct from cyclin D1 in nuclear localization, catalytic function, and oncogenic potential. These studies suggested that cyclin D1 isoforms hold unique functions that are of high- relevance to cancer. New preliminary data demonstrate that like cyclin D1, cyclin D1b protein is aberrantly expressed in a significant fraction of breast cancer cell lines and primary tumors. Cyclin D1b protein levels are controlled in a manner distinct from cyclin D1, and evade negative regulation elicited by multiple anti- proliferative signals. Critically, the pathological overproduction of specifically cyclin D1b bypasses estrogen receptor antagonists in models for ER-positive breast cancer. Furthermore, elevated cyclin D1b protein levels in primary breast cancer is associated with increased risk for distant metastasis, disease recurrence, and poor survival. In total, these finding support the hypothesis that the two cyclin D1 isoforms provide distinct activities relevant to breast cancer tumor genesis and therapeutic bypass. The following three aims are designed to test this hypothesis:
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