New research raises hope to stop tumour spread

June 11th, 2015

Untitled-design-(11)Scientists in the UK have discovered a trigger that allows breast cancer to spread to the lungs. The findings could lead to new therapies to stop the progression of breast cancer.

Breast cancer becomes deadly when cells break away from the primary tumour in the breast and spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, brain and bones.

When breast cancer spreads, we can offer women treatment to prolong their lives and minimise their pain, but we cannot offer a cure. More than three centuries after the spread of cancer was first identified, we still do not fully understand why and how best to stop it.

In new research published this week, scientists from the University of Edinburgh have found that blocking specific cell signals in mice with breast cancer greatly reduces the number of secondary tumours in the lungs.

The scientists had previously discovered that immune cells, called macrophages, play a role in helping breast cancer cells from a primary tumour to spread to the lungs and form a secondary tumour.

In their new research, the scientists have discovered that macrophages talk to breast cancer cells through signalling molecules, known as chemokines. Blocking these chemokine signals helped to stop the breast cancer cells from entering the lungs. It also made it difficult for breast cancer cells in the lungs to develop into tumours.

The findings suggest that targeting chemokine signals may be an innovative and promising approach to stop the spread of breast cancer cells.

Breast cancer spread occurs  in one in 20 women diagnosed with cancer confined to the breast, and one in six women diagnosed with cancer in their lymph nodes.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation has set itself the aspirational goal of zero deaths from breast cancer by 2030. The only way we will reach this goal is by improving our understanding of how breast cancer spread. NBCF research is focused on identifying why breast cancer spreads and how we can more effectively identify the spread of the disease.

You can help support our goal of zero deaths from breast cancer by 2030 by helping to fund breast cancer research. Donate today.