Researchers identify a protein that keeps metastatic breast cancer cells dormant

January 23, 2018, Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)
Nuclei of metastatic breast cancer cells showing the protein MSK1 in green. Credit: Cristina Figueras-Puig, IRB Barcelona

A study headed by ICREA researcher Roger Gomis at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) has identified the genes involved in the latent asymptomatic state of breast cancer metastases. The work sheds light on the molecular basis underlying how the expression of certain genes facilitates the spread of metastatic lesions.

The time needed for metastases to develop varies between patients, and little is known about the mechanisms that govern latency. A study headed by ICREA researcher Roger Gomis at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) has identified the genes involved in the latent asymptomatic state of breast cancer metastases. The work sheds light on the underlying how the expression of certain genes facilitates the spread of metastatic lesions.

The team has studied estrogen-positive (ER+) breast tumours, which are the most common, accounting for 80 percent of breast cancer tumour cases. They were interested in tumours characterised by a long period of latency with no symptoms. The study has been published in Nature Cell Biology.

MSK1, the protein that keeps tumour cells dormant

The team identified the protein kinase MSK1 as a key regulator of dormant or latent metastases. Using clinical samples from patients, the scientists confirmed that ER + breast cancer tumours that do not express MSK1 are associated with a risk of earlier relapse, while those that express it will form metastases later. "We are interested in understanding the mechanisms underlying metastasis and the time component of this process. Until now, little was known in preclinical models about the mechanisms that allow to leave the latent state and even less is known in patients," says Roger Gomis, head of the Growth Control and Cancer Metastasis Lab.

The researchers believe that in the future this discovery may benefit patients in two ways. Firstly, it will help to identify those with an imminent risk of relapse and to adjust the treatment for this prognosis. Secondly, attempts could be made to design a treatment to mimic the function of MSK1 kinase, with the aim to maintain metastatic lesions in a latent and asymptomatic state for as long as possible.

Explore further: Researchers identify a new suppressor of breast metastasis to the lung

More information: MSK1 regulates luminal cell differentiation and metastatic dormancy in ER+ breast cancer, Nature Cell Biology (2018). nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/s41556-017-0021-z

Related Stories

Researchers identify a new suppressor of breast metastasis to the lung

May 27, 2014
A study published today in EMBO Molecular Medicine reveals that the loss of function of the gene RARRES3 in breast cancer cells promotes metastasis to the lung.

New genes discovered regulating brain metastases in lung cancer

August 8, 2017
Research from McMaster University has identified new regulators of brain metastases in patients with lung cancer.

Immune cells play key role in early breast cancer metastasis even before a tumor develops

January 2, 2018
Mount Sinai researchers have discovered that normal immune cells called macrophages, which reside in healthy breast tissue surrounding milk ducts, play a major role in helping early breast cancer cells leave the breast for ...

Genetic test could help fight secondary breast cancer

October 25, 2017
Thousands of breast cancer patients at risk of developing aggressive secondary tumours could benefit from a potential new genetic test.

Researchers identify the gene responsible for metastasis of breast cancer to the bone

September 16, 2015
Physicians currently have no tools to help them detect which breast cancer patients will suffer metastasis to the bone, a process that occurs in 15-20% of cases. A study led by ICREA researcher Roger Gomis at the Institute ...

Study identifies breast cancer patients who would benefit from metastasis-specific treatment

October 20, 2017
Physicians currently have no tools to help them detect breast cancer patients who will suffer metastasis, a process that occurs in 15 to 20 percent of cases. In particular, they are unable to identify those patients that ...

Recommended for you

Researchers use a molecular Trojan horse to deliver chemotherapeutic drug to cancer cells

February 23, 2018
A research team at the University of California, Riverside has discovered a way for chemotherapy drug paclitaxel to target migrating, or circulating, cancer cells, which are responsible for the development of tumor metastases.

Lab-grown 'mini tumours' could personalise cancer treatment

February 23, 2018
Testing cancer drugs on miniature replicas of a patient's tumour could help doctors tailor treatment, according to new research.

An under-the-radar immune cell shows potential in fight against cancer

February 23, 2018
One of the rarest of immune cells, unknown to scientists a decade ago, might prove to be a potent weapon in stopping cancer from spreading in the body, according to new research from the University of British Columbia.

Study tracks evolutionary transition to destructive cancer

February 23, 2018
Evolution describes how all living forms cope with challenges in their environment, as they struggle to persevere against formidable odds. Mutation and selective pressure—cornerstones of Darwin's theory—are the means ...

Putting black skin cancer to sleep—for good

February 22, 2018
An international research team has succeeded in stopping the growth of malignant melanoma by reactivating a protective mechanism that prevents tumor cells from dividing. The team used chemical agents to block the enzymes ...

Cancer risk associated with key epigenetic changes occurring through normal aging process

February 22, 2018
Some scientists have hypothesized that tumor-promoting changes in cells during cancer development—particularly an epigenetic change involving DNA methylation—arise from rogue cells escaping a natural cell deterioration ...

0 comments

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.