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Bad to the bone: some breast cancer cells are primed to thrive
Date:8/29/2013

When a cancer cell sloughs off the edge of a tumor in the breast, it faces a tough road to survive. The cell must not only remain physically intact as it rushes through blood vessels, but it also must find a new organ to lodge itself in, take in enough nutrients and oxygen to stay alive, and begin dividing, all while escaping notice by the body's immune system.

A team of Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) scientists has discovered that some loose breast cancer cells, have a leg up on survivalthe genes they express make them more likely to prosper in bone tissue. The team also found that whether or not cancer cells turn on those genes depends on what their surroundings were like in the primary breast tumor. If the breast tumor had molecular patterns similar to those found in bone, the tumor is more likely to spread to bone later.

"It's like in society -- who you hang out with shapes who you are," says HHMI investigator Joan Massagu of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. "And that might make you better or worse equipped to handle situations you'll encounter."

The new findings, published August 29, 2013 in the journal Cell, could eventually lead to new drugs that block cancers from spreading to bone or other organs, he says.

When cells from a primary tumor circulate through the body and begin growing in a new organ, a metastatic tumor is formed. Such metastases are often harder to treat than primary tumors; the vast majority of people who die of cancer have not only a primary tumor but also metastatic disease. So a major goal of cancer researchers is to not only find ways to treat primary tumors, but stop cancer from metastasizing.

Massagu's lab group discovered in 2009 that by looking at the genetics of breast cancer cells, they could predict which were most likely to spread to bone. A set of genes dubbed the Src response signature (SRS) was more often turned on in the cells that metastasized to the bone. But the researchers
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Contact: Jim Keeley
keeleyj@hhmi.org
301-215-8858
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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