Biologists have identified a set of genes expressed in human breast cancer cells that work together to remodel the vasculature at the site of the primary tumour and that also promote the spread of cancer to the lungs.
The finding, reported in the April 12, 2007 issue of Nature (Vol. 446, No. 7137, pp. 765-770), helps to explain how cancer metastasis can occur and highlights targets for therapeutic treatment.
Metastasis is the leading cause of mortality in cancer patients. A number of genes are already known to contribute to the spread of breast cancer cells to the lungs. But Joan Massague and colleagues now show how four genes cooperate to promote the formation of new tumour blood vessels, the release of cancer cells into the bloodstream, and the penetration of tumour cells from the bloodstream into the lung.
The gene set comprises EREG, MMP1, MMP2 and COX2; drug combinations that target more than one of these components may prove useful for treating metastatic breast cancer.
Joan Massague (Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, New York, NY, USA)
Esther Napolitano (Public Affairs, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, USA)
Gerhard Christofori (University of Basel, Switzerland)
(C) Nature press release.
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