Scientists hail breast cancer breakthrough
Scientists have successfully blocked breast cancer cells from entering and hiding in the bones of mice, where they can survive chemotherapy treatment.
Researchers at Duke University have also devised a method of flushing breast cancer cells out of bone marrow in mice, making them easier to eradicate through conventional treatments or by the immune system.
The findings, published in the journal 'Science Translational Medicine', heralds the prospect of similar practices being trialled in humans and has prompted hopes that one of the most devastating characteristics of breast cancer can be prevented.
For many patients, breast cancer can return years after therapy and spread to other parts of the body. Previous research suggests that bone marrow may offer a safe haven from chemotherapy.
Using real-time microscopy techniques, the Duke University Team tracked the migration of breast cancer cells through the bone marrow of mice and identified E-selectin, the protein that allows cancer cells to enter the bone barrow, and CXCR4, the protein that anchors them to the bone and allows them to hide.
Treating the mice with an E-selectin inhibitor blocked breast cancer cells from entering the bone, and a CXCR4 inhibitor forced them back out into the bloodstream.
"In the mouse, our findings could offer new strategies to intervene at the molecular level before dormant cells can take hold and cause relapse,"said Dorothy Sipkins, Associate Professor at Duke.