Ready for relapse: Molecule helps breast cancer cells to survive in the bone marrow

Jul 06, 2009

Patients who survive an initial diagnosis of breast cancer often succumb to the disease years later when the cancer shows up in a different part of the body. Now, scientists have identified key signals that support the long term survival of breast cancer cells after they have spread to the bone marrow. The research, published by Cell Press in the July issue of the journal Cancer Cell, may lead to development of treatment strategies that decrease the likelihood of breast cancer recurrence in the bone and other organs.

Metastasis, the ability of cancer cells to spread from the initial site of origin to other parts of the body, occurs frequently in . Although it is clear that the majority of late-onset relapses after breast cancer arise in the bone, the mechanisms that contribute to cancer cell survival in the environment are unknown.

"We sought to identify signaling pathways that support the survival of metastasized breast cancer cells and thereby extend the period during which metastasis may emerge after the diagnosis and removal of a ," explains senior study author Dr. Joan Massague from the Cancer Biology and Genetics Programs at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Dr. Massague and colleagues used a sophisticated gene profiling technique link specific signaling pathways with late-onset relapse after breast cancer. In an investigation of samples from over 600 breast tumors, the researchers discovered that activity of a cancer-related enzyme called Src was associated with late-onset bone metastasis. Interestingly, this link was independent of breast cancer subtype and was selective and specific for cell survival in the bone marrow.

The researchers went on to identify Src-regulated signaling molecules that were expressed in the bone marrow and promoted cell survival. Further, Src increased the resistance of metastasized breast cancer cells to a key cell death-inducing signal that was abundantly expressed in bone metastasis tissue. These results demonstrate that Src hyperactivity provides breast cancer cells with a superior ability to survive in the bone marrow.

"The link between Src-dependent signaling and metastatic cell survival provides mechanistic insights into metastasis latency, and suggests strategies to hasten the attrition of disseminated breast ," concludes Dr. Massague. "Recently, a number of pharmacological Src inhibitors have been developed that may be worthy of consideration in this respect."

Source: Cell Press (news : web)

Explore further: Chronic inflammation linked to 'high-grade' prostate cancer

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Genes set scene for metastasis

Apr 11, 2007

Biologists at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) have identified a set of genes expressed in human breast cancer cells that work together to remodel the network of blood vessels at the site of the primary tumor. ...

'Bridge' protein spurs deadliest stages of breast cancer

Feb 22, 2007

A protein known for its ability to "bridge" interactions between other cellular proteins may spur metastasis in breast cancer, the disease’s deadliest stage, a study from Burnham Institute for Medical Research has found.

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 ...

Recommended for you

Unraveling the 'black ribbon' around lung cancer

Apr 17, 2014

It's not uncommon these days to find a colored ribbon representing a disease. A pink ribbon is well known to signify breast cancer. But what color ribbon does one think of with lung cancer?

User comments : 0

More news stories

UAE reports 12 new cases of MERS

Health authorities in the United Arab Emirates have announced 12 new cases of infection by the MERS coronavirus, but insisted the patients would be cured within two weeks.

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...