New Discovery May Stop Breast Cancer Spread to Bones

New Discovery May Stop Breast Cancer Spread to BonesNew Discovery May Stop Breast Cancer Spread to Bones

Researchers from the UK and Denmark have discovered a protein that drives the spread of breast cancer to the bone - a finding that could pave the way for treatment that halts progression of the disease.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women after skin cancer. This year, it is estimated that more than 231,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in the US, reports Medical News Today.

When cancer cells spread from the breast tumor - the "primary site" - to other parts of the body, this is known as metastatic or secondary breast cancer. Most commonly, breast cancer cells spread to the bones, accounting for around 85% of all secondary breast cancers.

In this latest study, recently published in the journal Nature, study co-leader Dr. Alison Gartland, of the University of Sheffield in the UK, and colleagues found that a protein called lysul oxidase (LOX) drives the spread of breast cancer cells to the bone.

The team says finding a way to block the activity of LOX may lead to new ways to prevent this type of secondary cancer in patients with breast cancer.

"This is important progress in the fight against breast cancer metastasis and these findings could lead to new treatments to stop secondary breast tumors growing in the bone, increasing the chances of survival for thousands of patients," says Dr. Gartland.

To reach their findings, researchers used mass spectrometry to analyze the protein secretion of tumors among patients with estrogen receptor negative (ER-) breast cancer.

They found that when breast cancer cells are deprived of oxygen, they release high levels of LOX. This protein makes holes in the bone of breast cancer patients as a way of preparing it for the arrival of cancer cells.

"We show that these lesions subsequently provide a platform for circulating tumor cells to colonize and form bone metastases."

Commenting on the findings, study co-leader Dr. Janine Erler, of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, says:

"Once cancer spreads to the bone it is very difficult to treat. Our research has shed light on the way breast cancer cells prime the bone so it is ready for their arrival. If we were able to block this process and translate our work to the clinic, we could stop breast cancer in its tracks thereby extending patients' lives."