Chloroquine works by stopping autophagy, which is used by cells to survive under stress. "When your cells realize they don't have enough nutrients, they eat themselves," Espina says. "It's a way to make energy when you don't have enough food."
And that's the spot the DCIS cells are in as they pile up in the milk duct. They're not getting enough oxygen and food and are squashed together.
"For all these reasons, they're under stress," Espina says. "When a cell is under stress, it's a life-and-death struggle. They're not just going to die. They're going to do what they can to survive. That's when they use autophagy to stay alive."
Chemotherapy, a common treatment for cancer, can rev up autophagy, Espina says. "A doctor selects a treatment to try to kill the cell, but the cell is trying to survive; it's trying to do what it's programmed to do. We have to find a way to defeat this cellular process."
Chloroquine works like Pepto-Bismol; it alters the cell's digestive process and therefore autophagy. "But the chloroquine doesn't kill the normal cells because the normal cells aren't dependent on autophagy to survive," Espina says.
The second CAPMM study on breast cancer is funded by the Side-Out Foundation. Researchers are developing individualized treatment for women with metastatic breast cancer. These advanced tumors have spread to other organs, such as the liver, brain and bone, and have limited response to conventional therapies. Standard chemotherapy failed the 25 women Mason has worked with to pinpoint more effective treatments, says Mariaelena Pierobon, CAPMM assistant research professor.
Pierobon is using technology created by Liotta and Emanuel "Chip" Petricoin III to id
|Contact: Michele McDonald|
George Mason University