Researchers have discovered a new protein which triggers the growth of blood vessels in breast cancer tumors which have spread to the brain, a common location which breast cancer can spread to. They found that by withholding the DOCK4 protein in mouse models, a particular part of the blood vessel did not form as quickly, meaning tumors grew at a slower rate. The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.
Researchers found that a complex of two related proteins, DOCK4 and DOCK9, is critical in the formation of the lumen, the interior space of a vessel through which blood flows. By impeding the speed at which the lumen forms, tumors are not fed as effectively by blood vessels.
Normally, when breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it forces new blood vessels to form to supply it with nutrients and oxygen to help it to grow, resulting in tumors that are very difficult to treat.
"Tumors need blood vessels to grow, but these blood vessels could be the cancer's weakest link because it is believed that they are less able to become resistant to drugs than the cancer cells themselves. Targeting drugs to the blood vessels that are serving the tumor rather than the tumor itself is an exciting new area of research," the researchers said.
The study was carried out in mice, and more research is needed to develop drugs that target the molecule and whether this approach would be safe and effective in people with cancer.
Based on material originally posted by University of Leeds.