Protein behind galloping breast cancer spread identified

In a new study, scientists claim to have found a potential target to slow the progression of breast cancer tumours and metastasis.

Complications in breast cancer patients are commonly caused by the spread of the disease through metastasis to other parts of the body, most often to the bones and lungs.

A team of researchers led by Richard Kremer from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) suggest that a specific protein plays a key role in the progression of the disease outside of the initial tumor area.

They showed that this particular target called parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP), present at high levels in cancers, is involved in key stages of breast cancer initiation, progression and metastatic spread.

“We are hoping for a significant effect on the prevention of breast cancer recurrence, growth and development by using a strategy to decrease the production of that particular protein,” Kremer said.

To better understand the role of PTHrP in cancer development, researchers eliminated the production of the hormone from breast cells using a strategy called “conditional knockout” and then studied the progression of the tumor.

“The results showed that without the presence of PTHrP in the breast, even before the tumor developed, a reduction of 80 to 90 per cent in the growth of the tumor was observed,” he said.

“The removal of this hormone in the breast and breast tumors block not only the growth of the tumors but also its spread to different organs,” Kremer said.

The study has been published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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