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Immunofluorescence of a mouse mammary gland duct (Photo: IRB Barcelona)

Researchers identify a key factor in the development of luminal breast cancer

Researchers at IRB Barcelona in the Barcelona Science Park discover a new mechanism in estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer cells. The work reveals that the inhibition of CPEB2, a key factor in the estrogen signalling pathway, causes cancer cells to proliferate less and protects mice against luminal breast cancer.


The Translational Control of Cell Cycle and Differentiation Lab at IRB Barcelona, led by ICREA researcher Raúl Méndez, has published a study in the journal Science Advances that has identified a key factor in the development of luminal breast cancer.

Characterised by the expression of estrogen receptors, luminal tumours are the most common subtype of breast cancer. The mammary gland is the only organ in our body to undergo its greatest development after birth, as a result of fluctuations in hormone levels. This makes this gland a good model to study cell differentiation and also the mechanisms that regulate the progression of breast cancer.

“Traditionally, much attention has been devoted to the in-depth study of how hormones regulate the development of the mammary gland at the transcriptional level, that is, the synthesis of messenger RNA from DNA. In previous work by our group, we had discovered that factors called CPEBs regulate the next step, namely the translation of that messenger RNA into protein. This process is crucial for embryo development, and it is deregulated during the development in tumours other than those in the breast, such as those of the pancreas,” explains Méndez.

The IRB Barcelona research team has discovered that CPEB2 is essential for protein synthesis after hormonal stimulation, the latter a process that regulates both the proper development of the mammary gland and the formation of luminal breast tumours.

► Reference article: Rosa Pascual, Judit Martín, Fernando Salvador, Oscar Reina, Veronica Chanes, Alba Millanes-Romero, Clara Suñer, Gonzalo Fernández-Miranda, Anna Bartomeu, Yi-Shuian Huang, Roger R. Gomis and Raúl Méndez. “The RNA binding protein CPEB2 regulates hormone sensing in mammary gland development and luminal breast cancer“.Science Advances (2020) DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax3868

► For further information: IRB Barcelona website [+]