Researchers identify a protein that keeps metastatic breast cancer cells dormant
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IMAGE: Nuclei of metastatic breast cancer cells showing the protein MSK1 in green. view more 

Credit: (Author: Cristina Figueras-Puig, IRB Barcelona)

The time needed for breast cancer metastases (secondary lesions caused by cells that have escaped from the original tumour) to develop varies between patients, and little is known about the mechanisms that govern latency (the dormant state of cells that have already spread through the body). A study headed by ICREA researcher Roger Gomis at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) has identified the genes involved in the latent asymptomatic state of breast cancer metastases. The work sheds light on the molecular basis underlying how the expression of certain genes facilitates the spread of metastatic lesions.

The team has studied the most common kind of breast tumour–estrogen-positive (ER +) and accounting for 80% of breast cancer tumour cases–that is characterised by a long period of latency with no symptoms. The study has been published today in Nature Cell Biology.

MSK1, the protein that keeps tumour cells dormant

The team has identified the protein kinase MSK1 as a key regulator of dormant or latent metastases. Using clinical samples from patients, the scientists have confirmed that ER +

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