The findings, uncovered in mice and patient tumours, are published in Nature Cell Biology today. They reveal a previously unseen ‘ecosystem’ in advanced breast cancer, in which the primary breast tumour emits signals that halt the growth of secondary tumours elsewhere in the body.
The spread of cancer beyond the original tumour – known as metastasis – is the most deadly aspect of most cancers. Once a breast cancer has spread to other parts of the body, treatments are far less effective and a patient’s prognosis worsens sharply. In Australia, 8 women die from breast cancer every single day1.
“This new research has yielded that rare thing,” says Dr Christine Chaffer (Garvan), “- a clue from the cancer itself about new possibilities to fight its spread. Our goal is to work out how we can mimic this ‘freezing’ of secondary cancers, so that one day we might influence all breast cancers to keep their secondary tumours in check.”
The researchers found that, in mice, primary breast tumours can influence ‘breakaway cells’ that have left the primary tumour to establish new tumours throughout the body. The primary tumour sends its message via the immune system, through an ‘inflammatory response’ provoked
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