BREAST cancer-associated macrophages activate specific proteins that help spread the cancer to the lungs, according to a study from the University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK. This new understanding of how these macrophages support breast cancer metastasis could provide the basis for new treatments that prevent progression of the disease.
Insulin-like Growth Factors 1 and 2
The team discovered that high levels of specific proteins called insulin-like growth factors (IGF) 1 and 2, which are found naturally in the blood, were expressed by breast cancer associated macrophages. This was found to help enable metastatic breast cancer cells to grow in the lungs: in breast cancer patients, 75% displayed activation of IGF receptors, correlating with increased macrophage infiltration and tumour progression. This activation increased to 87% in patients with invasive breast cancer.
Significant Reduction in Tumour Cell Growth
The researchers therefore wanted to see what the effects would be of blocking the IGF proteins in combination with paclitaxel in pre-clinical breast cancer models. This method led to a significant reduction in tumour cell growth and lung metastasis, a finding that may provide a new avenue for drug development.
Dr Ainhoa Mielgo, University of Liverpool, commented: “Our findings provide the rationale for further developing the combination of paclitaxel with IGF blockers for the treatment of invasive breast cancer. A better understanding of the mechanisms underlying the metastatic spreading of breast cancer is critical to improve treatment and patient outcome.”
Preventing the progression of breast cancer is crucial because metastasis, along with resistance to established therapies, is the reason why breast cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in women.
James Coker, Reporter
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