Enzyme that spreads breast cancer found
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London - Scientists have uncovered a mechanism that could be key to stopping breast cancers from spreading to bones - a discovery that offers hope of stopping life-threatening cancers from progressing.
Before a cancer spreads, an enzyme is released by the tumour in the breast that damages bones, “preparing” them for the arrival of cancer cells, researchers working at the Institute of Cancer Research in London found.
The majority of deaths from breast cancer occur after the cancer has spread to other parts of the body and the bones are the most common site for cancer spread, also known as metastasis.
Scientists hope that by blocking off the enzyme, called lysyl oxidase, or LOX, they could halt the spread of the disease. They also found that by treating mice with bisphosphonates, drugs already used to treat people with fragile bones, they were able to prevent the spread of cancer. The findings only apply to patients with a type of breast cancer known as oestrogen receptor (ER) negative breast cancer. Around 30 percent of breast cancers are ER negative.
Dr Alison Gartland, of the University of Sheffield, who co-led the study published in the journal Nature, said researchers were “really excited” by the results.
“This is important progress in the fight against breast cancer metastasis and these findings could lead to new treatments to stop secondary breast tumours growing in the bone, increasing the chances of survival for thousands of patients,” she said.
Breast cancer kills 12 000 women in the UK every year, and most of those who die have a cancer that has metastasised. In about 85 percent of secondary breast cancer patients, the cancer spreads to the bones.