Breast Cancer

Stopping Aggressive Breast Cancer

The chance of breast cancer spreading beyond the initial tumor may be decreased by lowering the level of a protein, according to new research.

A team of investigators from The Ohio State University found that mice implanted with breast cancer cells without the protein, myoferlin, developed self-contained tumors whose cells did not spread beyond the original site.

In contrast, mice implanted with cancer cells containing the protein developed larger, irregular masses and showed signs that cancer cells had invaded the surrounding tissue.

The study was published in the journal PLOS One.

Researchers said the findings indicated that reducing production of myoferlin changes the activation of genes involved in metastasis, and alters the mechanical properties of cancer cells, including their ability to invade elsewhere.

The influence of myoferlin indicates that diagnosis and perhaps even treatment might eventually be tailored to patients based on the properties of cells in tumors.

“Theoretically, if a patient had a tumor in which the myoferlin level was low, it would be defined as small and a surgeon could remove it and it wouldn’t metastasize,” says Douglas Kniss, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center and senior author of the study.

Kniss and colleagues used subtypes of triple-negative breast cancer cells for the study – one of the most lethal forms of breast cancer because of its likelihood to spread. “Since triple-negative cells are the most dangerous, we do wonder if this protein is relevant to only the most dangerous types of cancers, or if it is more generalized. We don’t know the answer at the moment,” he says.

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