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How does breast cancer spread?

17th April 2007

Researchers have identified four genes which together play an important part in spreading cancer throughout the body.

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The findings, published in the journal Nature, should pave the way for more effective therapies against cancer, which is the second leading cause of death globally.

The key to curing cancers is the dreaded metastasis, in which tumours that were previously local to one part of the body, or organ, spread elsewhere in the body, becoming untreatable.

Now, scientists have identified four genes, known as EREG, MMP-1, MMP-2 and COX-2, which worked together in mice to enable breast cancer tumours to spread to the lungs.

Dr Joan Massague, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, said silencing all four genes at once "nearly completely eliminated tumour growth and spread."

In a separate but related study, Michael White, a professor of cell biology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas identified genes, which, if blocked, would enable lower doses of chemotherapy to be used with increased effectiveness and reduced toxicity.

Experts believe that both studies could provide the basis for developing new and more effective cancer treatments.

 

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