A TEAM of British doctors have made a major discovery in the fight against breast cancer.
Researchers have found that blocking a key chemical can stop the cancer spreading to other organs.
Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) have found that a particular enzyme is involved in the spread of tumour cells from the breast to other parts of the body.
If experts can successfully block the action of lysyl oxidase-like 2 (LOXL2), then treatments could be developed to stop the spread of breast cancer.
Studies have shown that the lifetime risk of the disease for women is now one in eight.
Experts blamed lifestyle factors, including obesity and drinking alcohol, for fuelling the rise.
Women are also more likely to have children later in life and fewer offspring, which influences the risk.
In the latest study, published in the journal 'Cancer Research', experts found that LOXL2 promotes the spread of breast cancer through the way it controls two proteins, TIMP1 and MMP9.
LOXL2 has also been linked to the progression of other types of the disease, including colon and oesophageal cancer.
In the latest study, scientists found that blocking LOXL2 decreased the spread of breast cancer to the lungs, liver and bone.
According to lead researcher, Dr Janine Erler, from the ICR, more than 90pc of cancer deaths are because the disease has spread to other organs.
"Our study shows that inhibiting the action of LOXL2 can significantly reduce the spread of breast cancer, suggesting that drugs which block this enzyme may be effective in preventing patients' cancer from spreading," she said.
Researchers also found that high levels of LOXL2 are linked with more aggressive cancer.
Holly Barker, postdoctoral fellow on the study, said: "This knowledge could help us tailor treatment type and intensity to individual patients."
Arlene Wilkie, director of research and policy at Breast Cancer Campaign, which funded the study with the ICR and Cancer Research UK, said many more lives could in future be saved thanks to the discovery.