A molecule that could be helping breast cancer to spread has been identified by scientists in London.
Dr Amanda Harvey, from London’s Brunel University, had already discovered that a molecule called Brk – found in 60% of breast tumours – plays a vital role in speeding up the growth of breast cancer cells.
Her latest research, published in the American Journal of Pathology, shows Brk is involved in helping breast cancer cells to spread – known as metastasis.
Dr Harvey studied aggressive breast cancer tumours from patients who normally have an extremely poor outcome, and found high levels of Brk in these tumours.
Crucially, however, it was not found in normal breast cells.
She then discovered that tumour cells died if she stopped Brk from working, but when Brk was re-introduced they survived. This demonstrates a significant involvement of Brk in helping breast cancer cells to both survive and spread.
Dr Harvey said: “We are now investigating exactly how Brk helps breast cancer to grow and spread so that we can develop ways to prevent this from happening. Our ultimate aim is to develop new ways to kill the breast cancer cells.”
Copyright Press Association 2009