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

ancer, the relationship between signaling molecules and the molecules that communicate with them has gone awry.

Signaling molecules are those that can be received and read by a cell through a receptor molecule on its surface. Once the signaling molecules connect with a receptor, their union sets off a process that leads to the receiving cell changing its behavior. The sequence of events that follows involves a signaling pathway, which is a group of molecules that work together, one molecule activating the next until a specific function is carried out, such as renewing an organ's cells. There are many such signaling pathways.

But in the case of metastatic breast cancer, a disruptive pathway is formed. The signaling molecule, also known as a ligand, connects with a receptor molecule on certain bone cells and activates a cellular pathway that ultimately disrupts healthy bone renewal. Kang's team identified the signaling molecule as Jagged1, and the receptor molecule as one that activates a cellular pathway known as the "Notch pathway."

This finding gives cancer researchers a specific target, Kang said -- that of developing ways "to neutralize Jagged1's destructive power" and keeping it from interfering with normal bone growth.

At the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, Jacqueline Bromberg, a physician who also studies breast cancer, said the findings of Kang's team are promising.

"The bone is the most common site for metastasis in patients with breast cancer," said Bromberg, who met Kang several years ago while he was a postdoctoral fellow at Sloan Kettering. She noted that although there are treatments that can slow these tumors, such as estrogen-blockers, radiation and chemotherapy, "we have few therapies which effectively eradicate bone metastasis."

At the University of Indiana School of Medicine in Indianapolis, oncology professor Theresa Guise said the Princeton discoveries "show
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Contact: Emily Aronson
earonson@princeton.edu
609-258-5733
Princeton University
Source:Eurekalert  

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