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Breast cancer replicates brain development process
Date:4/24/2014

New research led by a scientist at the University of York reveals that a process that forms a key element in the development of the nervous system may also play a pivotal role in the spread of breast cancer.

A research team, led by Dr Will Brackenbury, a Medical Research Council Fellow in the Department of Biology at York, has studied how voltage-gated sodium channels assist in the metastasis of cancerous tumours. These channels are found in the membranes of excitable cells, such as neurons, where they are involved in transmission of electrical impulses. However, the channels have also been found in metastatic cancer cells.

Using clinical breast cancer specimens from the Breast Cancer Campaign Tissue Bank and preclinical laboratory modelling, the researchers, including Dr Rebecca Millican-Slater, a consultant pathologist at St James University Hospital, Leeds, discovered that a sodium channel protein called Beta-one is present at high levels in breast cancer samples compared with normal tissue.

In research published in the International Journal of Cancer, they show for the first time that the increase in beta-one protein levels make tumours grow faster. They also discovered that Beta-one proteins play a significant role in enabling the cells to change shape and move, and consequently metastasise.

Understanding these processes is important in understanding cancer metastasis. Although the number of deaths from breast cancer is decreasing, it is still the leading cause of cancer-related death in women because of metastasis.

Dr Brackenbury said: "While there is no cure for metastasis, blocking the sodium channels inhibits migration and invasiveness and it may therefore be a viable therapeutic target. What is most exciting is that the mechanism by which Beta One regulates migration appears to replicate what it does in the central nervous system.

"As well as regulating electrical activity in neurons, Beta-one also regulates the migra
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Contact: David Garner
david.garner@york.ac.uk
44-019-043-22153
University of York
Source:Eurekalert

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