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Key molecule behind breast cancer spread identified

June 9, 2011 - London

Scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have identified a critical molecule that helps Breast cancer spread beyond the primary tumor.

The research also highlighted a potential new strategy against metastatic disease. By focusing on sites where cancer had spread, we were able to detect a molecule that stimulates metastasis," said Jeffrey Pollard, the study's senior author.

"This raises the possibility that metastasis could be kept from progressing - or even prevented - if the stimulating molecule could be blocked. This we achieved in mouse models of Breast cancer," he said.

Using models of human and mouse Breast cancer, the researchers demonstrated that when breast tumor cells travel to the lung, these cells secrete CCL2, a chemokine molecule that attracts cells.

CCL2 attracts immune cells called inflammatory monocytes, which then develop into macrophages- cells whose functions include fighting infections.

The monocytes and macrophages "invited" by CCL2 signaling then facilitate extravasation - the critical step in metastasis in which bloodborne tumor cells cross the vessel wall and implant in nearby tissue.

Once the tumor cells are seeded, inflammatory monocytes continue to flock to the metastatic site.

In turn, these continuously recruited monocytes and the resultant macrophages promote the growth of the emerging metastatic tumor.

The study has been published in the online edition of Nature.


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