Scientists will now be able to find new therapies to halt the spread of breast cancer tumour, thanks to the revolutionary discovery of the disease’s trigger.
University of Edinburgh researchers have found that blocking the signals in mice with breast cancer greatly reduces the number of secondary tumours found in the lungs.
The majority of deaths from breast cancer are caused by the tumour spreading to other parts of the body. The lung is often one of the first organs to be affected.
The team investigated the role that immune cells called macrophages play in helping cells from the original tumour to spread, and found that macrophages require signalling molecules called chemokines to communicate with breast cancer cells.
When they blocked these signals in mice, they found that the number of secondary tumours in the lungs was reduced by up to two thirds.
The results suggest that targeting a chemokine receptor signalling molecule called CCR1 may result in fewer unwanted side effects for patients while stopping the spread of breast cancer cells.
Professor Jeffrey Pollard said that the findings open the door to the development of treatments that target the tumour micro-environment, which may stop the deadly progression of breast cancer in its tracks.
The study is published today in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.