Researchers find clue to stopping breast-cancer metastasis

Nov 17, 2008

If scientists knew exactly what a breast cancer cell needs to spread, then they could stop the most deadly part of the disease: metastasis. New research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine takes a step in that direction.

Carol Otey, Ph.D. and UNC colleagues reduced the ability of breast cancer cells to migrate by knocking down the expression of a protein called palladin.

They also found higher levels of palladin in four invasive breast cancer cell lines compared to four non-invasive cell lines.

"This study shows that palladin may play an important role in the metastasis of breast cancer cells as they move out of the tumor and into the blood vessels and lymphatics to spread throughout the body," said Otey, associate professor of cell and molecular physiology.

To conduct the study, the researchers grew breast cancer cells in an "invasion chamber," in which human tumor cells are placed in a plastic well that is inserted into a larger well. Cells will attempt to move to the bottom of the chamber because it's baited with growth factors that cells find attractive. But first the cells have to migrate through a filter coated with a layer of artificial connective tissue. "The cells have to migrate through that and have to degrade it," Otey said. "It's a useful model system that mimics what happens in the body."

The study results appeared in the Nov. 3, 2008, online edition of the journal Oncogene.

Most women would never die from breast cancer if the cancer cells couldn't metastasize to the brain and bone marrow, Otey said. "To really make breast cancer a treatable disease, we have to be able to find a way to prevent or reduce the amount of metastasis."

"Now that we see palladin is expressed mostly in invasive cells, it raises the question as to whether it might be useful as a prognostic marker," Otey said. "Maybe someday doctors could test for the presence of palladin to identify patients who have the most aggressive tumors, then give those patients personalized, more aggressive treatment."

The study benefited from the collaboration between Otey's cell and molecular physiology lab and Dr. Hong Jin ("H.J.") Kim's surgical oncology lab. "I learned a lot from H.J. about the challenges that clinicians face as they try to optimize the treatment of each breast cancer patient," Otey said.

Otey has been investigating palladin's role in cell movement since she discovered and named it in 2000.

Next she will examine a variety of samples of human tumors from a UNC tumor bank, to find out if the tumors from patients who had worse outcomes and more aggressive cancers contain higher levels of palladin.

Source: University of North Carolina School of Medicine

Explore further: New cancer drug target involving lipid chemical messengers

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Team makes scientific history with new cellular connection

Sep 11, 2014

Researchers led by Dr. Helen McNeill at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute have revealed an exciting and unusual biochemical connection. Their discovery has implications for diseases linked to mitochondria, ...

Deploying exosomes to win a battle of the sexes

Aug 25, 2014

There are many biological tools that help animals ensure reproductive success. A new study in The Journal of Cell Biology provides further detail into how one such mechanism enables male fruit flies to imp ...

Venom gets good buzz as potential cancer-fighter

Aug 11, 2014

Bee, snake or scorpion venom could form the basis of a new generation of cancer-fighting drugs, scientists will report here today. They have devised a method for targeting venom proteins specifically to malignant cells while ...

Advancing medicine, layer by layer

Jul 02, 2014

Personalized cancer treatments and better bone implants could grow from techniques demonstrated by graduate students Stephen W. Morton and Nisarg J. Shah, who are both working in chemical engineering professor ...

Inside the cell, an ocean of buffeting waves

Aug 14, 2014

Conventional wisdom holds that the cytoplasm of mammalian cells is a viscous fluid, with organelles and proteins suspended within it, jiggling against one another and drifting at random. However, a new biophysical ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

E_L_Earnhardt
not rated yet Nov 17, 2008
Metastasis is by "energy" transfered by overactive electrons. "Heat" is a measure of their "spin" and vibration. "Cooling" decreases activity within and without actively dividing cells! No metastasis with cyroablation!



mi cells