Four genes that drive the spread of breast cancer identified

Researchers in the United States have isolated a set of four genes closely linked to the growth of breast cancer cells and their spread to the lungs, according to a study released on Wednesday. The study, conducted in mice and reported in this week’s Nature, helps to explain how cancer metastasis can occur and highlights targets for therapeutic treatment. Metastasis is the leading cause of mortality in cancer patients – entails numerous biological functions that collectively enable cancerous cells from a primary site to disseminate and overtake distant organs. A number of genes are already known to contribute to the spread of breast cancer cells to the lungs. Using genetic and pharmacological approaches, Dr Joan Massague, and colleagues showed how four genes facilitate the formation of new tumor blood vessels, the release of cancer cells into the bloodstream, and the penetration of tumor cells from the bloodstream into the lung. The gene set comprises EREG (an epidermal growth factor receptor ligand), the cyclooxygenase COX2, and MMP1 and MMP2 (matrix enzymes that are expressed in human breast cancer cells). The researchers conclude: The drug combinations that target one or more of the proteins encoded by these genes may prove useful for treating metastatic breast cancer. Breast cancer is one of the most common type of carcinoma, the formation of malignant tumors in cells found in the skin and in the lining of certain organs, including the lungs and the colon. Via : BBC

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