Scientists have identified a possible key to preventing secondary cancers in breast cancer patients, after discovering an enzyme which enhances the spread of the disease. The research was published in the journal Nature.
Secondary (metastatic) breast cancer is the main cause of the 12,000 deaths which occur from breast cancer in the UK every year. The most common site for the disease to spread is the bone - occurring in around 85 per cent of secondary breast cancer patients.
The new research found that the enzyme LysYl Oxidase (LOX) released from the primary tumour causes holes in bone and prepares the bone for the future arrival of cancer cells. The findings suggest that identifying LOX in oestrogen receptor negative (ER negative) breast cancer patients early, could allow doctors to block the enzyme's activity, preventing bone damage and the spread of tumour cells to the bone (metastasis), halting the progression of the disease.
The researchers also showed that treatment with bisphosphonate, an existing class of drug which prevents the loss of bone mass and is already used to treat diseases such as osteoporosis, was able to prevent the changes in the bone and the spread of the disease in mice.
The pioneering research could lead to a better prognosis for cancer patients in the longer term. "The next step is to find out exactly how the tumour secreted LOX interacts with bone cells to be able to develop new drugs to stop the formation of the bone lesions and cancer metastasis," the researchers concluded.
Based on material originally posted by University of Sheffield.
(Image credit: Dr Alison Gartland:University of Sheffield)