In cancer, the spread of tumor cells from the primary site to other parts of the body is called metastasis and is a major cause of death, especially in patients with breast cancer. A new study by Kiran Chada, PhD, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, part of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, shows that metastasis in breast cancer and the risk of death are reduced when the function of the gene HGMA2, is limited.
This finding, published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), may be used to develop therapeutic treatments for patients.
"Our research has shown that HGMA2 plays a part in regulating the spread of cancer and could be considered a driver of the process," said Dr. Chada, who was principal investigator of the study. "Further studies could result in the development of therapeutic treatments for patients with breast cancer which could prevent HGMA2's function, reduce the spread of cancer and extend a patient's life."
According to Dr. Chada, only a subset of cancer cells in the primary tumor is potentially metastatic and these cells are found at the edge of the tumor in a region known as the invasive front. Dr. Chada's laboratory showed that normal cells do not express HMGA2, and the expression of this gene product converts normal cells into metastatic cells. Furthermore, the majority of cells which express HMGA2 in human breast cancer tissue were found to be at the invasive front. In additional studies, the researchers showed mice that could not express the HMGA2 gene were found to have a substantially reduced incidence of breast cancer.
Dr. Chada's laboratory conducted the research along with the laboratory of Jeanine D' Armiento, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Funding for the study was provided by grants from the Columbia University LAM Center and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.
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