Thursday, May 28, 2015

Breast cancer could be 'stopped in its tracks' by new technique, say scientists

Certain breast cancers spread to the bones using an enzyme that drills “seed holes” for planting new tumours, research has shown. The discovery could lead to treatments aimed at preventing secondary breast cancers in patients with non-hormone sensitive disease. The enzyme lysyl oxidase (Lox) is released from the primary tumour in the breast. Scientists found that it produces holes in bone that provide fertile ground for the growth of spreading, or metastatic, cancer cells.

But the process could be blocked, at least in mice, with bisphosphonate drugs that prevent bone loss and are used to treat osteoporosis. The drugs are already prescribed to men with advanced prostate cancer that has spread to the bones, to prevent pain and fractures. Dr Alison Gartland, from the University of Sheffield, who led the research, said: “This is important progress in the fight against breast cancer metastasis and these findings could lead to new treatments to stop secondary breast tumours growing in the bone, increasing the chances of survival for thousands of patients.

“We are really excited about our results that show breast cancer tumours send out signals to destroy the bone before cancer cells get there in order to prepare the bone for the cancer cells’ arrival. “The next step is to find out exactly how the tumour secreted Lox interacts with bone cells to be able to develop new drugs to stop the formation of the bone lesions and cancer metastasis. This could also have implications for how we treat other bone diseases too.”

Most breast cancers are hormone sensitive, meaning they are fuelled by the female hormone oestrogen. But it was non-oestrogen sensitive (oestrogen receptor negative, or ER negative) breast cancers that used the Lox mechanism to spread to the bones, the scientists found. Why this should be the case remains unanswered, but Lox production was linked to low-oxygen conditions in the primary tumour... read more: