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Title: Investigating RUNX transcription factors in mammary gland development and breast cancer
Author: Ferrari, Nicola
ISNI:       0000 0004 2750 7987
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 2013
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Breast cancer is the third most common cause of cancer death in the UK, accountable for more than 11000 deaths in 2010 alone (www.cancerresearchuk. org). Developmental pathways commonly required for normal development are often hijacked during tumour progression, so a better understanding of mammary gland development is necessary to fully understand the roots of breast cancer. The Runx gene family are known to be important regulators of development in different lineages. In particular RUNX1 and RUNX2 have been widely studied in the context of haematopoiesis and osteogenesis respectively, but their role in epithelial tissue is much less well understood. In this thesis a role for RUNX1 and RUNX2 in mammary development and breast cancer has been identified. The first part of this study is focused on characterizing the expression and function of the Runx genes in the mammary epithelium. RUNX1 and RUNX2 protein levels fluctuate during embryonic and adult mammary development, and an in vivo conditional knockout strategy shows that both genes are important for maintenance of mammary epithelium homeostasis. Moreover, combined loss of RUNX1 and RUNX2 significantly perturbs the normal mammary architecture with an expansion of the basal population in vivo and the appearance of preneoplastic lesions in aged mammary glands. An exciting new role for RUNX2 in mammary stem cells has also been revealed showing that RUNX2 is important for the regenerative potential of mammary epithelial cells in vitro. Evidence is also presented to indicate that RUNX2 could be linked to regulation of quiescence and Wnt signalling in the stem cell compartment and during transformation. Finally, the role of these genes in breast cancer is discussed demonstrating involvement of RUNX1 and RUNX2 specifically in the triple negative (ER-PR-HER2-) subtype. In particular, for the first time, RUNX1 is revealed as an independent prognostic indicator correlating with poor prognosis in triple negative tumours. Meanwhile, evidence from various mouse models demonstrates that RUNX2 may be specifically involved in the squamous metaplastic form of this disease.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Q Science (General) ; QH301 Biology