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Einstein researchers discover protein that contributes to cancer spread
Date:12/8/2008

and structural biology at Einstein who, with Dr. Condeelis, developed the in vivo invasion assay used to isolate metastatic tumor cells from breast tumors thereby implicating Mena as an important gene for metastasis.

Evanthia T. Roussos, an M.D.-Ph.D. student in Dr. Condeelis' lab and primary co-author of the study, explains, "We have micro-needles filled with growth factors and tissue that we insert into a tumor on an anesthetized mouse. If a cell is invasive, within four hours, it will crawl into the needles. We found that mouse breast tumor cells that we engineered to contain Menainv were invasive whereas cells that did not have Menainv were not."

Another finding from the study that has important implications for patient treatment is that tumor cells harboring Menainv are less likely to be responsive to newer breast cancer treatments that inhibit epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFR). Epidermal growth factor (EGF) has been shown to increase a breast cancer cell's invasive potential. The study investigators propose that drugs which inhibit EGF may lack effectiveness on tumor cells that express Menainv. That's because Menainvcells are so sensitive to EGF that even the small amount of EGF signal that the drugs fail to block may be enough to stimulate EGF receptor and promote tumor cell migration and metastasis.

If Menainv behaves similarly in humans as it does in mice, it would be an especially attractive marker for metastatic breast cancer because the structure of Menainv would enable an antibody or a PCR assay to be developed to identify it. Such an antibody or PCR assay could be used to diagnose the presence of Menainv in biopsies and blood samples allowing doctors to identify breast cancer patients who are more likely to have progressive disease and recommend the appropriate treatment.

The current study builds on previous research by Dr. Condeelis' group which identified Menainv as the isoform of Mena that is over expressed
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Contact: Michael Heller
mheller@aecom.yu.edu
718-430-3101
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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