New discovery may help stop breast cancer’s deadly spread

In a new study, researchers found a gene responsible for the spread of triple-negative breast cancer to other parts of the body—a process called metastasis—and developed a potential way to stop it.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Virginia Cancer Center.

Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive form of breast cancer that accounts for 40,000 deaths in the United States annually.

The majority of these deaths result from resistance to chemotherapy and subsequent aggressive metastases.

In the study, the researchers asked: What causes a primary tumor to become metastatic?

This is an important question in cancer biology because patients with metastatic tumors have the highest death rate.

The team found that the breast cancer oncogene TRIM37 not only causes cancer to spread but also makes it resistant to chemotherapy.

A new approach they developed could possibly address both, the researchers hope.

The new method uses nanoparticles—microscopic balls of fat—to deliver treatment to block TRIM37.

These nanoparticles are paired with specially engineered antibodies that bind to the cancerous cells but not to healthy cells.

The team found that targeting TRIM37 prevents metastatic lesions in mouse models.

They hope the method could prevent or strong delay the spread of triple-negative breast cancer. This could also lower the disease’s defenses against chemotherapy.

Blocking the gene could benefit approximately 80% of triple-negative breast cancer patients, the researchers estimate.

One author of the study is UVA’s Sanchita Bhatnagar, Ph.D.

The study is published in Cancer Research.

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