Female breast cancer incidence rates in New Jersey are some of the highest in the country. While the numbers are dismal, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel. A recent breast cancer discovery could lead scientists in finding a treatment for metastasis, the transfer of the disease from one organ to another.
According to "Science Daily," researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College have found the molecular switch that enables aggressive breast cancer cells to grow "legs" that allow malignant cells to crawl from the primary site to other areas of the body. Scientists are thrilled that the findings, published in "Cancer Cell," could lead to the development of agents that could stop the spread of aggressive triple negative breast cancer, a breast cancer subtype with high recurrence rate and metastasis. An miRNA inhibitor molecule, known as miR-708, is the key to this exciting breast cancer discovery. When the function of this regulator of gene expression is silenced, cancer spreads. Rebooting it may help control how much calcium cells store.
Lead investigator, Dr. Vivek Mittal of Lehman Brothers Lung Cancer Laboratory, explained, "Metastasis can be lethal, and our findings point to potential targeted treatments to stop the spread of this aggressive breast cancer. It is calcium that provides legs to cancer cells to help them escape a tumor. If miR-708 is itself suppressed, there is an increase in production of neuronatin proteins, which then allows more calcium to leave the endoplasmic reticulum and activate a cascade of genes that turn on migratory pathways leading to metastasis."
Lab tests performed on mice indicated that synthetic miR-708 blocks the growth of triple breast cancer cells. Drugs currently being tested in malignant lymphoma cells may also help stop the spread.
Dr. Mittal concluded, "It is exciting that there are now drugs that can turn off the silencing of these critical genes. They could very well work for this aggressive breast cancer. Finding that there may be a way to shut down the spread of an aggressive breast cancer – which is the only way that triple negative breast cancer can be controlled and lives spared – is very promising."