Today is a great day! Another great day for the Breast Cancer Research!
The scientists from the University of Manchester have identified a protein EPHA2, which contributes to the breast cancer progression.
Let me bring a short introduction on the disease and it’s progression. Breast cancer can be local and/or become metastatic (spread of cells from the origin to a distant site, like bone or brain). It is subdivided into four stages (Figure 1), each of which is determined by the combination of Tumor size (T), lymph Node status (N) and Metastasis (M) (called the TNM system).
More information on the breast cancer stages can be found: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/StagingofBreastCancer.html
Figure 1. Breast cancer development and progression. From: fda.gov
Breast cancer becomes metastatic when it reaches Stage IV. Here, cancerous cells leave their original site (breast tissue), break into the bloodstream, migrate and enter the new site (e.g.: bone) (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Migration of cancer cells. From: news.leiden.edu/news-2015/genes-discovered-that-have-effect-on-spread-of-breast-cancer.html
Today the researches have identified that when tumor cells are in the blood vessels and interact with the walls, these regulate EPHA2 protein. When EPHA2 is active, the cancerous cells remain inside the vessels; however, switching off EPHA2 (by a biochemical modification, called phosphorylation) allows cancer cells to leave the blood vessel and move to a new site.
The full article on the discovery: http://stke.sciencemag.org/content/9/414/ra15
The lead researcher, Claus Jorgensen concluded: “The next step is to figure out how to keep this receptor switched on, so that the tumor cells can’t leave the blood vessels – stopping breast cancer spreading and making the disease easier to treat successfully” (from: http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/how-breast-cancer-cells-spread-from-blood-vessels-116021001209_1.html )
This is a great news in the world of cancer research! Identification of markers like EPHA2, is a step towards finding solution to stop the disease progression. More research should be done. However, every step counts and hopefully, in the future EPHA2 could become a drug target for metastatic breast cancer and it’s regulation save thousands (or millions) of lives!