Researchers from the University of Edinburgh recently found a trigger that allows the spread of breast cancer cells to the lungs. Blocking these signals can reduce the number of secondary tumours found in the lungs of breast cancer patients. The study “CCL2-induced chemokine cascade promotes breast cancer metastasis by enhancing retention of metastasis-associated macrophages”, was recently published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
Most breast cancer deaths are instigated by the spread of the tumour to other body parts, with the lung being one of the first affected organs. The research team from the University of Edinburgh MRC Centre for Reproductive Health examined the role macrophages play to help cells from the primary tumour to spread to secondary locations (metastases).
Results from their previous investigations revealed that breast cancer tumour cells need macrophages to enter the lungs, mainly through the action of chemokines, specific signalling molecules that allow cellular communication. The team conducted their experiments in mice, observing that upon chemokine blockade, the amount of secondary tumours in the lungs diminished by up to two thirds, by preventing breast cancer cells to get in the bloodstream and reach the lungs.
According to the researchers these findings may lead to the development of specific treatments that can halt breast cancer spread. Targeting the chemokine receptor signaling molecule (CCR1) may lead to less side effects while hindering the spread of breast cancer cells.
Professor Jeffrey Pollard, Director of the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh, stated in a recent news release: “Our findings open the door to the development of treatments that target the tumour microenvironment, which may stop the deadly progression of breast cancer in its tracks.”