Identification of 5 genes involved in the metastasis of breast tumors to the lung

June 20, 2008

The identification of five genes involve in the metastasis of breast tumours to the lung is the principal finding of a scientific team made up of two bodies from the University of Navarra, the Applied Medical Research Centre (CIMA) and the University Hospital of the University of Navarra.

Doctor Alfonso Calvo, researcher in the area of Oncology at the CIMA, led the work with the special collaboration of Doctor Ignacio Gil Bazo, cancer specialist from the University Hospital. The study made up a significant part of Mr Raúl Catena's PhD thesis.

For this research, recently published in the scientific journal Oncogene, a transgenic mouse model which presented a greater tendency for developing metastasis was employed. The increase in what is known as the Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) in its mammary glands triggered profound changes in the tumoural structure, which enabled the malignant cells to leave the tumour and invade the lungs.

Finally, the pattern of genes responsible for this tumoural migration to the lungs was analysed and this was compared to that shown by women with breast tumours with pulmonary metastatic affectation. It was shown that five of these genes were common to the animal model and patients with breast cancer.

Most effective ways of treatment

According to the results of this study, of the five genes identified, the Tenascina-C gene seems to be a good therapeutic target for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. In fact, the blocking of the expression of this gene in the animal model enabled a significant reduction, both in tumour growth and in the incidence of pulmonary metastasis.

This new discovery in the complex network that is the metastasis process of tumours provides key data on the knowledge of cancer and its spreading, at the same time identifying new targets for which new pharmaceutical medicines that contribute to more efficacious treatment of this disease can be designed.
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Elhuyar Fundazioa

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