Newly Discovered Protein Could Stop the Spread of Breast Cancer

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Cancer cell and lymphocytes
Image: Juan Gaertner/Shutterstock

A new receptor protein has been discovered that has promise in being used to stop the spread of breast cancer in patients. When this protein is active, it prevents tumor cells transmitted via the bloodstream from exiting the vessel and spreading to other tissue.

Researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research, London, and the University of Manchester have published their findings in Science Signaling. Their study of breast cancer tumor cells and how they spread led to to the identification of this new protein. This protein, called EPHA2, determines if tumor cells are able to exit the bloodstream.

The research showed that the cancer cells themselves are actually able to regulate this receptor protein. By disabling the protein the cancer can spread to new tissue. If this protein is active, then when the tumor cells latch onto the wall of the blood vessel they are unable to force their way through to the tissue. If inactive, the tumor cells are able to push through and spread.

Researchers believe it is possible to interact with the protein in a way to encourage it to remain active in those who have breast cancer.

Dr. Claus Jorgensen, who led the research said, “The next step is to figure out how to keep this receptor switched on, so the tumor cells cannot leave the blood vessels, stopping breast cancer spreading and making the disease easier to treat successfully.”

These findings indicate a very real step forward in our knowledge about the spread of breast cancer and how to stop it.

Nell Barrie, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information manager, said, “This is important research that teaches us more about how breast cancer cells move. Research like this is vital to help our understanding of how cancer spreads, and how to stop this from happening. More research is needed before this will benefit patients but it’s a jump in the right direction,” said Nell Barrie, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information manager.