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Researchers find potential cancer roadblock
Date:8/1/2012

EAST LANSING, Mich. By identifying a key protein that tells certain breast cancer cells when and how to move, researchers at Michigan State University hope to better understand the process by which breast cancer spreads, or metastasizes.

When breast cancer metastasizes, cancer cells break away from a primary tumor and move to other organs in the body, including the lungs, liver and brain. In work published recently in the journal Cancer Research, MSU researchers Kathy Gallo and Jian Chen show a protein called MLK3 (mixed lineage kinase 3) is a critical driver of breast cancer cell migration and invasion.

More importantly, Chen and Gallo showed that in triple-negative breast tumor cells, which are more aggressive and for which targeted therapies are needed, it is possible to thwart that cell migration and invasion.

"While the classical approach to cancer drugs has been to find drugs that kill tumor cells, there recently also is an interest in finding drugs that interrupt metastasis," said Gallo, a professor in MSU's Department of Physiology. "The hope is that such drugs in combination with conventional therapies may lead to better outcomes in patients."

As part of their study, Gallo and Chen, a biochemistry graduate student, also found that eliminating MLK3 prevented tumors in animals from metastasizing to the lungs, providing the foundation for future research on targeting MLK3 pathways as an approach to preventing the spread of cancer.

The researchers identified how key cellular proteins were instructed by the MLK3 protein through the addition of molecular tags called phosphates to interact with one another, leading cancer cells to move. Specifically, MLK3 promotes the addition of phosphates to another protein called paxillin, which is known to control how cells move.

Gallo and Chen then stopped cell movement in breast cancer models by eliminating MLK3 altogether or using a drug called CEP-1
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Contact: Jason Cody
codyja@msu.edu
517-432-0924
Michigan State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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