Scientists discover protein that could stop breast cancer from spreading

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Researchers from The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and from the University of Manchester have discovered a protein which could prevent breast cancer from spreading.

EPHA2 is a receptor protein that, once activated, can help stop cancer cells from leaving blood vessels and moving to other parts of the body. Indeed, breast cancer cells are more likely to spread to certain parts of the body than others, according to Cancer Research UK. Cells travelling in the bloodstream are most likely to settle in the bones, liver or lungs.

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How breast cancer cells spread.

When tumour cells spread, they first enter the blood stream and grip onto the inner walls of blood vessels. Scientists believe that with further research, they can figure out how to activate EPHA2 so that these tumour cells can’t spread and cause secondary breast cancer.

They found that cancer cells can stop the action of the receptor protein EPHA2 in order to push their way out of the vessels. But when these cancer cells interact with the walls of the blood vessels, EPHA2 is activated and the tumour cells remain inside the blood vessels.

In contrast, when the protein is inactive, the tumour cells can push out and spread across the body.

The next step is to figure out how to keep this receptor switched on, so that the tumour cells can’t leave the blood vessels – stopping breast cancer spreading and making the disease easier to treat successfully.

« Research like this is vital to help understanding how cancer spreads, and how to stop this from happening. », – Nell Barrie, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information manager.

Source: The Huffington Post UK

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