Even though medical evolution has allowed an increase in breast cancer survival over the years, there are still a significant percentage of women, 10 to 15%, that suffer from breast cancer metastasis including brain metastasis.
In a recent study titled “A novel preclinical method to quantitatively evaluate early-stage metastatic events at the murine blood-brain barrier,” published in Cancer Prevention Research, a team of researchers aimed to understand the reasons behind breast cancer brain metastasis, which can eventually lead to the development of a strategy to lower the risk of this biological phenomenon.
“Unfortunately, the rate of secondary breast tumors in the brain is now threefold higher than it was 10 years ago. Once a woman has a brain tumor coming from the breast, we have few effective therapies”, lead author Paul Lockman, Ph.D., B.S.N., the inaugural Douglas D. Glover Chair of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the West Virginia University School of Pharmacy and associate director for translational research at the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, said in a news release.
Currently, chemotherapy drugs available to treat brain metastasis derived from the primary tumor site are not efficient, since they cannot effectively cross the blood-brain barrier. Dr. Lockman and his team developed a novel microscopic technique that can identify and quantify the amount of individual breast cancer cells that invade the brain.
“Using this method, we demonstrated that by reducing some key inflammatory proteins in the body and in the cancer cell, we can decrease breast cancer cell invasion into the brain by 80 percent,” Dr. Lockman explained.
These inflammatory proteins were then silenced using a specific inhibitor that interferes with the cell’s protein production mechanism.
Dr. Lockman believes other drugs already exist that would have the same inhibitory effect in brain metastatic cells and he is now focused on identifying and testing such drugs.
“If we are successful, the next step will be a clinical trial,” Dr. Lockman added. “We want to do more than just treat women diagnosed with breast cancer; we want to prevent their cancer from spreading.”