Campus & Community

HMS creates first known library of breast cancer proteins

2 min read

Harvard University Gazette

In research that could significantly advance the pace of drug discovery in the fight against breast cancer, Harvard Medical School (HMS) investigators announced in Wednesday’s (Feb. 8) online Journal of Proteome Research that they have created the first publicly available library of reliably expressible proteins of a human disease, in this case for breast cancer.

Perhaps more significantly, these researchers expressed a subset of the 1,300 protein-expressing complementary DNAs in the library into a model system mimicking cells of a human breast, allowing them to study on a broad scale how these proteins might contribute to the development of breast cancer. Through this comprehensive approach, the researchers identified potentially novel functional activities for both well-known and lesser-known breast cancer-associated proteins.

“The process of carcinogenesis is complex and involves the activation of many different cellular programs,” says Joan Brugge, chair of the HMS Department of Cell Biology, and co-principal investigator of this initiative, called Breast Cancer 1000. “A significant limitation for breast cancer research has been the inability to distinguish whether certain proteins that are altered in breast tumor cells are the cause or the effect of conversion of normal breast cells to malignancy. The systematic approach that we’ve enabled and demonstrated will allow researchers to track cancer-causing proteins in simulated environments, with the goal of learning how to impede them.”

“The availability of this collection will enable pilot experimentation and accelerate the development of faster techniques for studying breast cancer in a mammalian setting,” says Joshua LaBaer, director of the Harvard Institute of Proteomics (a division of HMS) and also co-principal investigator. “To advance breast cancer research quickly, we are making the BC1000 library publicly available. It can be viewed from the Harvard Institute of Proteomics Web site (

– John Lacey/HMS Communications