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Princeton scientists discover mechanism involved in breast cancer's spread to bone
Date:2/3/2011

In a discovery that may lead to a new treatment for breast cancer that has spread to the bone, a Princeton University research team has unraveled a mystery about how these tumors take root.

Cancer cells often travel throughout the body and cause new tumors in individuals with advanced breast cancer -- a process called metastasis -- commonly resulting in malignant bone tumors. What the Princeton research has uncovered is the exact mechanism that lets the traveling tumor cells disrupt normal bone growth. By zeroing in on the molecules involved, and particularly a protein called "Jagged1" that sends destructive signals to cells, the research team has opened the door to drug therapies that could block this disruptive process. Doctors at other medical centers who have reviewed the research have found it promising.

"Right now we don't have many treatments to offer these patients," said Yibin Kang, an associate professor of molecular biology at Princeton who led the research team. "Doctors can manage the symptoms of this bone cancer, but they can't do much more. Our findings suggest there could be a new way of treatment," one that could slow or halt these bone tumors.

Breast cancer spreads to the bone in 70 to 80 percent of patients with advanced breast cancer, and it can also spread to the brain, lung and liver. Metastatic bone cancer is also a frequent occurrence among patients with advanced prostate, lung and skin cancers. In findings that will be published online in the journal Cancer Cell on Feb. 3, the team's research shows that breast tumor cells are able to give bone cells the wrong instructions through a process known as cell signaling -- with disastrous effects for the patient.

The billions of cells in a living human body must communicate to develop, repair tissue, and effectively maintain normal physiological functions. Cell signaling is part of a complex system that enables them to do that but, in patients with c
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Contact: Emily Aronson
earonson@princeton.edu
609-258-5733
Princeton University
Source:Eurekalert  

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