Interview with Dr Bernard Friedenson

Posted Sun, Nov, 22,2015

This author interview is by Dr Bernard Friedenson, of University of Illinois Chicago. Dr Friedenson's full paper, Mutations in breast cancer exome sequences alter susceptibility to infections and converge on the same signaling pathways, is available for download in Journal of Genomes and Exomes.

First please summarize for readers the content of your article.
The article shows that there is a common thread connecting mutations in genes coding for seemingly unrelated breast cancer functions. The common thread is that many gene mutations alter susceptibility to infections. Every one of the 103 breast cancers studied had gene mutations that could affect infections including all known tumor viruses. Gene mutations changed the cancer cells by deregulating the immune system, interfering with many other normal functions and altering the cellular and extracellular environment. Infections and mutations can reinforce or oppose each other in the development of cancer. Infections and mutations converge on the same cellular signaling pathways involved in cancer. Individual breast cancer gene mutations are associated with specific infections or specific groups of infections.

How did you come to be involved in your area of study?
My father died from cancer.

What was previously known about the topic of your article?
It was known that tumor viruses alone were not enough to cause cancer.

How has your work in this area advanced understanding of the topic?
The work is the first link between specific gene mutations/variants and specific infections in causing cancer. Susceptibility to infection connects mutations affecting many processes that are seemingly unrelated to cancer. Oncogenic mutations target the same cellular functions affected by oncogenic microorganisms. Mutations or variants of specific genes rule cancer caused by specific infections or groups of infections in or out. Information from entire cancer exomes has been largely ignored but it can predict susceptibility to infections.

What do you regard as being the most important aspect of the results reported in the article?
The work explains how cancer arises because of a combination of gene mutations and infections. Potential mutation related infections have to be considered in treating cancer.

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