New study reveals how to combat bone metastasis in breast cancer

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In a new study by researchers at Tel Aviv University, a new light is shed on the fight against breast cancer, particularly its spread to the bones—a condition that causes severe pain and fractures in patients.

This innovative research introduces a promising approach using existing medications to significantly reduce bone metastasis and increase the chances of survival for breast cancer patients.

Led by Prof. Neta Erez and Dr. Lea Monteran, the team focused on how to block the cancer’s spread to bones, a common and debilitating development in metastatic breast cancer, affecting over three-quarters of patients.

Their findings, published in the journal Cancer Discovery, highlight a strategy that might soon benefit patients not just with breast cancer but potentially those with other types of cancer as well.

Breast cancer often leads to bone metastasis, where the cancer cells spread from the original tumor to the bone, destroying bone tissue, causing unbearable pain, and leading to fractures.

With current technology, such as MRI or CT scans, diagnosis usually comes too late for a cure. The Tel Aviv University team aimed to find a method to halt the progression of bone metastasis at its early stages.

The study’s innovation lies in its approach to the tumor as an ecosystem, comprising various cell interactions, including immune cells and blood vessels. Cancer cells, in their cunning, can corrupt normal cells around them to support their growth, including in the bone.

The researchers embarked on a mission to block these harmful communications early on, thereby preventing the cancer cells from establishing a stronghold in the bones.

Their method involved a detailed comparison of bone conditions in mice at different stages of metastasis: healthy, early metastasis, and advanced metastasis.

They discovered that although T cells from the immune system were present at the onset of bone metastasis, their ability to fight the cancer was suppressed by other immune cells.

By identifying the proteins responsible for this suppression, the team devised a novel therapeutic combo: a drug to counteract the immune-inhibiting cells and an antibody to activate the T cells.

When administered to mice, this combination treatment led to a significant reduction in bone metastases and improved survival rates.

Further bolstering their findings, the team collaborated with medical centers in Israel and the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, examining tissue samples from patients with breast cancer and other cancers.

They found the same protein expressions inhibiting T cells in these samples as in their animal model, suggesting the treatment’s potential applicability to humans.

The beauty of this new strategy is that it repurposes drugs already approved and available, potentially speeding up the process to make this treatment available to patients.

Clinical trials are the next step to confirm the effectiveness of this combination therapy in fighting bone metastasis from breast cancer and possibly other cancers.

This research marks a significant step forward in the battle against cancer, offering hope to patients facing the grim prospect of bone metastasis. By targeting the disease’s spread at its root, this approach opens new doors to more effective, life-saving treatments.

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The research findings can be found in Cancer Discovery.

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