Dis­cov­ery helps show how breast can­cer spreads

Wellness Update - - Health News -

ST. LOUIS. – Re­searchers at Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity School of Medicine in St. Louis have dis­cov­ered why breast can­cer pa­tients with dense breasts are more likely than oth­ers to de­velop ag­gres­sive tu­mors that spread. The find­ing opens the door to drug treat­ments that pre­vent metas­ta­sis. It has long been known that women with denser breasts are at higher risk for breast can­cer. This greater den­sity is caused by an ex­cess of a struc­tural pro­tein called col­la­gen. “We have shown how in­creased col­la­gen in the breasts could in­crease the chances of breast tu­mors spread­ing and be­com­ing more in­va­sive,” says Gre­gory D. Long­more, MD, pro­fes­sor of medicine. “It doesn’t ex­plain why women with dense breasts get can­cer in the first place. But once they do, the path­way that we de­scribe is rel­e­vant in caus­ing their can­cers to be more ag­gres­sive and more likely to spread.” The re­sults ap­pear on­line May 5 in Na­ture Cell Bi­ol­ogy. Work­ing in mouse mod­els of breast can­cer and breast tu­mor sam­ples from pa­tients, Long­more and his col­leagues showed that a pro­tein that sits on the sur­face of tu­mor cells, called DDR2, binds to col­la­gen and ac­ti­vates a mul­ti­step path­way that en­cour­ages tu­mor cells to spread. “We had no idea DDR2 would do this,” says Long­more, also pro­fes­sor of cell bi­ol­ogy and phys­i­ol­ogy. “The func­tions of DDR2 are not well un­der­stood, and it has not been im­pli­cated in can­cer – and cer­tainly not in breast can­cer – un­til now.

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