MAR 07, 2017 06:57 PM PST

Another Step Forward in the Fight Against Breast Cancer

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Cancer is most deadly when it spreads from the part of the body where it formed to another part, metastasis. Breast cancer patients are killed not because of breast cancer recurrence, but because it metastasizes; migration to the brain is deadliest for the patient. Researchers at City of Hope have learned more about brain metastases in women suffering from HER-2 positive breast cancer. Around 40 percent of HER-2 positive breast cancers (explained in the video below from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute) go on to experience brain metastases. Understanding more about the mechanism behind this event will help inform new treatments.

"More women than ever are surviving breast cancer only to die from breast tumors growing in their brains years after they've been declared cancer-free," explained the leader of the study,  Rahul Jandial, M.D., Ph.D., a neurosurgeon and scientist at City of Hope. "I wanted to understand why women with HER2-positive breast cancer (around 20 percent of all breast cancers) have higher rates of brain metastases than women with other breast cancer subtypes and in turn, find their biological Achilles heel to develop new medicines." This work is set to be reported in Clinical & Experimental Metastasis, the journal of the Metastases Research Society.

A protein called reelin that is typically only found in the brain, also encases breast cancer cells, which acts as a shield preventing detection of the cancerous cells. The cells are able to avoid protective mechanisms used by the brain and can then take hold. From their, a dangerous brain tumor can begin to grow.

Following brain surgery, Jandial and his team were able to use the tissue samples remaining after the surgery, comparing those specimens to breast cancer tissue obtained during mastectomies that the same patients had undergone. The investigators found that expression of the reelin protein was low in tissue from primary breast cancer, but in breast cancer that was HER-2 positive and had metastasized to the brain, reel in expression was significantly higher. 

"The cells are essentially able to act as spies that look like citizens," explained Jandial. "They release a mesh of protein and escape the brain's natural defense weapons, causing tumors to grow in the brain."

90 percent of all cancer deaths result from metastases; people that are diagnosed with metastases in the brain have only a 20 percent chance of living a year after their diagnosis. This work will hopefully help patients afflicted with cancer, especially those with metastatic breast cancer.

Metastatic Breast Cancer in Pleural Fluid / Credit: Ed Uthman/Flickr

 

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via City of Hope, Clinical & Experimental Metastasis

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JUL 04, 2018
Drug Discovery
JUL 04, 2018
Identifying New Drug Targets in Therapy-Resistant Cancers
Recent research published in the Nature Partner journal Systems Biology and Applications examines how genome-wide data used in collaboration with systems b...
AUG 10, 2018
Immunology
AUG 10, 2018
Cancer Cell 'Drones' Battle Immune System
Cancer cells release PD-L1 containing exosomes that circulate in the blood and stop T cells before they can reach tumors....
AUG 14, 2018
Cancer
AUG 14, 2018
New Drug for Refractory Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma
Mogamulizumab was approved by the FDA this month after a very successful Phase III clinical trial demonstrating its effectiveness in treating patients with challenging CTCL....
AUG 15, 2018
Cancer
AUG 15, 2018
Cancer Control Headway in The Last 20 Years
Learning from history and what changes have been made will continue to help drive cancer controls for the future....
SEP 15, 2018
Cancer
SEP 15, 2018
Undescended testicles could lead to testicular cancer and infertility in adult males
An undescended testis (cryptorchidism) is a condition in which one of the testes or both have not descended into the right position in the scrotum at birth and either stay at the abdomen or d...
OCT 04, 2018
Videos
OCT 04, 2018
Zebrafish as Metastatic Cancer Model
Another Koch Institute Image Award winner from 2018 is presented in this video from MIT....
Loading Comments...