Women with inherited mutations in the BRCA1 gene have a very high lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, typically with early onset. The Eng lab project aspires to design a preventative vaccine for women with inherited BRCA1 mutations. It may be possible to design a vaccine for this population because the initial changes that lead to breast cancers arising from these inherited mutations may share common biological pathways. Their research will involve conducting a comparative analysis of gene expression by sequencing the RNA which acts as messengers between the gene and protein in (1) BRCA1 mutation-bearing breast tumors vs (2) normal breast tissue adjacent to the tumor and (3) normal breast tissue distant from the tumor, with each “trio” derived from the same individual. Their strategy will generate a database of potential proteins and protein forms that are modified in tumors and absent in normal tissue. The data may provide an estimate of levels of the potential vaccine protein targets on the tumor, a key factor in vaccine design to have the best shot at an effective anti-tumor immune response. In addition, their strategy is to develop a multidimensional immune response since it aims to identify full proteins in contrast to currently used methods focused on small protein fragments as vaccine targets. If this project is successful, then predicted vaccine-targetable proteins will be tested for their ability to induce immune responses.
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