Once breast cancer is diagnosed, it is a painful rush from pillar to the post for patients and relatives. The Edinburgh University scientists have succeeded in finding a revolutionary approach to stem the growth of the tumour by targeting the disease’s trigger itself.
In their lab experiments, researchers have found that blocking the signals in mice with breast cancer can reduce the secondary tumours found in the lungs, which means they can effectively stop the trigger for the growth and address the treatment.
The majority of deaths from breast cancer are caused by the tumour spreading to other parts of the body such as lungs.
Researchers at the Edinburgh University’s MRC Centre for Reproductive Health zeroed in on the role of the immune cells called macrophages play in helping cells from the original tumour to spread.
In their previous research they found that breast cancer cells need the support of macrophages to invade the lungs and set up secondary tumours and now with their discovery that macrophages require signalling molecules called chemokines to communicate with breast cancer cells, they were able to block these signals in mice to find that the number of secondary tumours in the lungs was reduced by up to two thirds.
The new approach not only stopped the cancer cells from getting into the lungs from the blood stream but also hindered those that did get into the lungs from establishing themselves and forming new tumours.
Armed with their new findings, researchers are now confident that human cells, which seem to use the same chemokine signals to communicate with each other, can be stopped from growing in the body.
Post-diagnosis, the researchers are confident their findings can lead to new treatments to stop breast cancer from spreading and target the tumour microenvironment, which may stop the deadly progression of breast cancer in its tracks.
Professor Jeffrey Pollard, Director, MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, said, “The results suggest that targeting a chemokine receptor called CCR1 may result in fewer unwanted side effects for patients while stopping the spread of breast cancer cells.”
The study, funded by the United States Department of Defence, National Institutes of Health (US), Medical Research Council (UK) and the Wellcome Trust, has been published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.