UNC Lineberger’s Zhiyuan Hu, PhD, was co-corresponding author of a study published in NPJ Breast Cancer along with UNC Lineberger co-authors Lisa Carey, MD, physician-in-chief of the N.C. Cancer Hospital and the Richardson and Marilyn Jacobs Preyer Distinguished Professor in Breast Cancer Research, and Yan Li, PhD. The study found that elevated expression of 17 immunity-related genes is associated with better outcomes among women with aggressive forms of estrogen receptor–negative breast cancer.
Hu, the scientific director of the UNC Lineberger’s RAM lab, and his co-authors identified the 17 genes by analyzing a larger expression set of data from close to 2,000 patients. They found that the genes were turned on in some immune cells known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes, but were inactive in immune cells in the blood. They included the immunity-related genes in a larger test of 72 genes, finding it could be used to accurately predict risk for developing distant metastases. They report that their findings indicate that immune system-related genes should be included in prognostic tests for women with breast cancer.