A breakthrough study published in the journal Nature has the potential to dramatically improve survival rates of thousands of breast cancer patients per year.
The team found that before a tumour spreads, it releases an enzyme that starts breaking down bone tissue and forming holes, essentially preparing them for the arrival of the cancer cells. They now hope that by blocking this enzyme, known as LysYl Oxidase or LOX, they might be able to stop the disease progression in certain patients.
“We are really excited about our results that show breast cancer tumors send out signals to destroy the bone before cancer cells get there in order to prepare the bone for the cancer cells’ arrival,” said Alison Gartland, one of the lead researchers on the study, in a recent press release.(1)
“The next step is to find out exactly how the tumor secreted (enzyme) 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.”
Looking At The Study
Tumor metastasis is a complicated process, involving lots of interplay between the cancer cells and the host body.
This study is just the most recent of several focusing on how metastasis functions in the body, but it is one of the ones with the most promising results.
By monitoring specific enzymes, researchers were able to show that the lesions caused by tumor-secreted enzymes provide a “platform” for tumor cells to metastasize in the bones.
“Our study identifies a novel mechanism of regulation of bone homeostasis and metastasis, opening up opportunities for novel therapeutic intervention with important clinical implications,” the study concludes(2).
Fighting Secondary Breast Cancer
Secondary breast cancer occurs when breast cancer metastasizes to other parts of the body, including the bones.
According to Katherine Woods, a member of the organization that funded the study,
“The reality of living with secondary breast cancer in the bone is a stark one, which leaves many women with bone pain and fractures that need extensive surgery just when they need to be making the most of the time they have left with friends and family.”
“Secondary breast cancer kills 1,000 women each and every month in the UK alone and yet we still don’t know enough about how and why breast cancer spreads to stop it,” she added.
The Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Centre, which funded the recent study, also announced that their newly-formed charity “is determined that by 2050, no one will lose their life to breast cancer.”
It’s an ambitious goal, but one that modern research is making more and more possible every day.
There is also hope for this research to provide insight into how to treat other serious bone diseases.