Role of Mitochondria in Breast Cancer
SPARC 2022 Poster Number 4
Breast Cancer still represents the most common cancer, which affects women worldwide. Recently mitochondria, which are specialised structures within the cells, have been shown to be key players in breast cancer metabolism and have been considered more than just a “powerhouse”. Indeed, mitochondria are not only involved in the production of the energetic molecule ATP (adenosine triphosphate), necessary for vital cellular functions, but are also considered a central hub to support tumour growth, cancer spread, resistance to therapies and “stemness” characteristics. Cells within a tumour are not all the same but inside it, you can distinguish stronger and more malignant cells than others called "cancer stem cells" (CSCs), which are considered main drivers of drug resistance and cancer spread. Several studies demonstrated that mitochondrial metabolism represents the main energy source for CSCs. For this reason, acting on mitochondria could be a breakthrough in targeted therapies against these malignant cells. Moreover, it is becoming evident that specific alterations at mitochondrial DNA (mt-DNA) level led to breast cancer progression. The aim of the project is to assess the relative involvement of nuclear- DNA (n-DNA) and mitochondrial DNA (mt-DNA) and the cross-communication between them in the control of mitochondrial function. In this context, the mitochondrial DNA polymerase gamma protein, which is the only DNA polymerase that is able to replicate mt-DNA into mitochondria and whose subunits are encoded by nuclear DNA, it may represent a nodal protein to investigate the cross-talk between the nucleus and mitochondria and how its malfunction is related to breast cancer. In this way, mitochondrial DNA polymerase gamma could be characterized as a potential target for drugs, to halt the propagation of breast cancer stem cells.