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Breast cancer cells have to learn to walk before they can run
Date:12/31/2007

La Jolla, CA Early-stage breast cancer that has not yet invaded the surrounding tissues may already contain highly motile cells, bringing the tumor one step closer to metastasis, report researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

Their study, published in the Dec. 30 issue of the Journal of Cell Biology, suggests that these cells, although not yet invasive, could wander off along milk ducts and seed new tumors within the same breast. A lack of invasion suggested a lack of motility, says lead author Gray Pearson, Ph.D, a postdoctoral researcher in the Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory at the Salk, but thats not so.

This is an exciting finding because it suggests that cells might acquire migratory properties much earlier than expected, says senior author Tony Hunter, Ph.D., a professor in the Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory.

Due to improved screening programs, most breast tumors are discovered at an early stage when they are still small and confined. In such cases, cancer cells have not grown into the surrounding tissues and remain within the borders of a duct, the most common site where invasive breast cancer arises. These tumors are known as DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ).

The standard treatment for DCIS is lumpectomy, the surgical removal of the tumor and surrounding tissue. Approximately 16% of DCIS patients treated with lumpectomy alone develop recurrent breast cancer growth within 5 years of treatment. One of the questions faced by oncologists and patients is whether they should add gamma radiation after undergoing surgery to catch straying tumor cells and reduce the risk of recurrent breast cancer. Currently, the decision is based solely on the size of the tumor.

Our findings suggest that, if a DCIS contains these highly motile cells, the patient may have an increased risk for recurrent growth, says Pearson. Under these circumstances you would consider adding radiation treatment re
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Contact: Gina Kirchweger
kirchweger@salk.edu
858-453-4100 x1340
Salk Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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