According to an article on the BBC news page, scientists at the UK’s Institute of Cancer Research have made a significant breakthrough: they have prevented breast cancer from spreading to other organs in mice by blocking a particular enzyme, called LOXL2.
The enzyme, also known as lysyl oxidase, seems to be important in the early stages of cancer spread. It helps the cancerous cells escape from the breast and get into the bloodstream. The researchers used several techniques to suppress and reduce the enzyme levels in this latest animal study, and found that the rate of metastatic spread of breast cancer to distant organs was significantly reduced.
In people, previous studies have shown increased lysyl oxidase expression has been correlated with decreases in both metastases-free, and overall survival in breast cancer patients. Approximately one third of patients that are treated for localized breast cancer will eventually develop recurrence at distant sites. Once metastases are present (stage IV), life expectancy is less than 2 years.
This new study is therefore important for the development of drug therapy against LOXL2 and improving breast cancer survival, but also for developing a test which can predict the likelihood of cancer spreading.
Image: high power microscopic view of breast cancer cells,
courtesy of thedoctorsdoctor.com