Researchers find driver of breast cancer stem cell metastasis

July 24, 2012

The finding involves the cancer gene RhoC, which has previously been shown to promote metastasis of many types of cancer. RhoC levels increase as breast cancer progresses and high levels of RhoC are associated with worse patient survival.

Cancer are the small number of cells within a tumor that are believed to fuel the tumor's growth and spread. Researchers believe traditional chemotherapy and radiation treatments often become ineffective because they do not kill the cancer stem cells, and that the key to future treatments is to develop drugs that target and kill these cells.

This new study, which appears online in PLoS ONE, suggests a new way to get at the cancer stem cells.

"Targeting the specific molecular cogs driving the cancer stem cell machinery responsible for the cancer spreading has potential for future treatments. Eliminating cancer stem cells may ultimately be necessary to cure certain cancers, but in the meantime, we may be able to manage the cancer stem and the invasive behaviors of these cells by disrupting the molecular machinery, using RhoC as a target," says senior study author Sofia D. Merajver, M.D., Ph.D., professor of internal medicine and epidemiology at the University of Michigan and scientific director of the breast oncology program at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The researchers looked at breast cancer cell lines that were highly metastatic and cell lines from normal . By inhibiting or overexpressing RhoC, they found that RhoC expression is necessary to cause metastasis in both cell lines, and that RhoC overexpression alone can cause metastasis. The researchers also tested this in mice and had similar results.

Merajver's lab, in conjunction with other U-M researchers, is studying a novel small molecule drug to inhibit RhoC, which has shown promising initial results in the laboratory. The researchers are continuing to develop this inhibitor, which will require several years of additional testing in the laboratory before potentially advancing to clinical trials.

Breast cancer statistics: 229,060 Americans will be diagnosed with this year and 39,920 will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society

Explore further: Cell movement provides clues to aggressive breast cancer

More information: PLoS ONE, Vol. 7, No. 7, July 2012, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040979

Related Stories

Cell movement provides clues to aggressive breast cancer

October 3, 2011

Researchers from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have identified a specific molecule that alters how breast cancer cells move. This affects the cells' ability to spread or metastasize to distant parts ...

Avastin, Sutent increase breast cancer stem cells, study shows

January 25, 2012

Cancer treatments designed to block the growth of blood vessels were found to increase the number of cancer stem cells in breast tumors in mice, suggesting a possible explanation for why these drugs don't lead to longer survival, ...

Recommended for you

Combination therapy can prevent cytostatic resistance

November 26, 2015

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have found a new way of preventing resistance to cytostatics used in the treatment of cancers such as medulloblastoma, the most common form of malignant brain tumour in children. The promising ...

Forecasting the path of breast cancer in a patient

November 23, 2015

USC researchers have developed a mathematical model to forecast metastatic breast cancer survival rates using techniques usually reserved for weather prediction, financial forecasting and surfing the Web.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.