Researchers identify specific protein that helps breast cancer to spread

January 25, 2018, University of Liverpool
Researchers identify specific protein that helps breast cancer to spread
Dr Aihoa Mielgo from the Department of Cancer Studies at the Institute of Translational Medicine. Credit: University of Liverpool

Researchers from the University's Institute of Translational Medicine have found an explanation for how breast cancer spreads to the lungs, which could potentially hold the key to preventing the progression of the disease.

Breast remains the leading cause of cancer death in women due to metastasis (the spread of a cancer from one organ or part of the body to another) and the development of resistance to established therapies.

Macrophages are the most abundant immune cells in the and can both inhibit and support cancer progression.

Insulin-like growth factors

The research team, led by Dr. Ainhoa Mielgo, conducted a study to gain a better understanding of how associated macrophages support with the aim of developing more effective therapies against this disease.

They found that these macrophages express high levels of specific proteins called 'insulin-like growth factors' (IGFs) 1 and 2 and this helps cells grow in the lungs.

IGF-1 and 2 are hormones found naturally in your blood. Their main job is to regulate the effects of growth hormone (GH) in your body. However, as shown in this study, tumours can also express these proteins to help them grow and metastasize to other organs.

Significant reduction in metastasis

75% of examined showed activation of IGF receptors which correlates with increased macrophage infiltration and tumour progression.

In patients with , activation of IGF receptors increased to 87%.

The researchers found there was a significant reduction in tumour cell growth and lung metastasis in pre-clinical breast cancer models when IGFs were blocked in combination with paclitaxel, a chemotherapeutic agent commonly used to treat some of the most aggressive types of breast cancer.

The results of this research study have been published in Oncogene.

Improving treatments

Dr. Mielgo said: "Our findings provide the rationale for further developing the combination of paclitaxel with IGF blockers for the treatment of invasive breast cancer.

"A better understanding of the mechanisms underlying the metastatic spreading of breast cancer is critical to improve treatment and patient outcome."

Lucy Ireland, Ph.D. student in Dr. Mielgo's group and first author of this publication, said: "I am thrilled by our findings, as the combination therapy is more effective than the current treatment in pre-clinical models of breast cancer."

Explore further: Potential therapy identified for aggressive breast cancer

More information: Lucy Ireland et al. Blockade of insulin-like growth factors increases efficacy of paclitaxel in metastatic breast cancer, Oncogene (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41388-017-0115-x

Related Stories

Potential therapy identified for aggressive breast cancer

January 25, 2018
The European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute, based with Cardiff University, has repurposed a current cancer therapy, TRAIL, to find a new treatment for advanced cancers that are resistant to anti-hormone therapy.

New study reveals late spread of breast cancer and backs key role of early diagnosis

August 14, 2017
Breast cancer cells that spread to other parts of the body break off and leave the primary tumour at late stages of disease development, scientists from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and their collaborators have found.

Pregnancy poses no greater risk to breast cancer survivors

October 26, 2017
A recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute indicates that pregnancy does not incur a greater risk of relapse for survivors of breast cancer. The safety of pregnancy for women with history of ...

Protein to control breast cancer progression identified

July 5, 2017
Switching off a protein produced in breast cancer cells can stop cancer progression, researchers from The University of Queensland have found.

Reason for pancreatic cancer's resistance to chemotherapy found

November 21, 2016
A pioneering University of Liverpool research team have published a study that identifies the mechanism in the human body that causes resistance of pancreatic cancer cells to chemotherapy.

Researchers identify new potential treatment for cancer metastasis

January 9, 2017
Breast cancer metastasis, the process by which cancer spreads, may be prevented through the new use of a class of drugs already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Recommended for you

Stem cell vaccine immunizes lab mice against multiple cancers

February 15, 2018
Stanford University researchers report that injecting mice with inactivated induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) launched a strong immune response against breast, lung, and skin cancers. The vaccine also prevented relapses ...

Induced pluripotent stem cells could serve as cancer vaccine, researchers say

February 15, 2018
Induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, are a keystone of regenerative medicine. Outside the body, they can be coaxed to become many different types of cells and tissues that can help repair damage due to trauma or ...

Team paves the way to the use of immunotherapy to treat aggressive colon tumors

February 15, 2018
In a short space of time, immunotherapy against cancer cells has become a powerful approach to treat cancers such as melanoma and lung cancer. However, to date, most colon tumours appeared to be unresponsive to this kind ...

Can our genes help predict how women respond to ovarian cancer treatment?

February 15, 2018
Research has identified gene variants that play a significant role in how women with ovarian cancer process chemotherapy.

First comparison of common breast cancer tests finds varied accuracy of predictions

February 15, 2018
Commercially-available prognostic breast cancer tests show significant variation in their abilities to predict disease recurrence, according to a study led by Queen Mary University of London of nearly 800 postmenopausal women.

Catching up to brain cancer: Researchers develop accurate model of how aggressive cancer cells move and spread

February 15, 2018
A brief chat at a Faculty Senate meeting put two University of Delaware researchers onto an idea that could be of great value to cancer researchers.

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.