Breast Cancer Cells Disguise Themselves as ‘Friends’ to Enter Brain, Study Finds

Breast Cancer Cells Disguise Themselves as ‘Friends’ to Enter Brain, Study Finds
Researchers have uncovered the mechanism that allows breast cancer cells to colonize the brain, a feature that occurs in nearly 40 percent of HER-positive breast cancer patients. When cells are metastasizing to the brain, they wrap themselves in a mesh of reelin, a protein typically found in the brain. This allows the cells to disguise themselves as "friendly" cells and escape the brain's natural defense mechanisms. Understanding these evasion mechanisms may lead to the development of new therapies that halt the spread of breast cancer cells to the brain. The study, "Astrocyte-induced Reelin expression drives proliferation of Her2+ breast cancer metastases," appeared in Clinical and Experimental Metastasis. "More women than ever are surviving breast cancer only to die from breast tumors growing in their brains years after they've been declared cancer-free," neurosurgeon and scientist Rahul Jandial, MD, PhD, who led the study, said in a news release. "I wanted to understand why women with HER2-positive breast cancer (around 20 percent of all breast cancers) have higher rates of brain metastases than women with other breast cancer subtypes and in turn, find their biological Achilles heel to develop new medicines." Jandial and his team at City of Hope in Duarte, California, examined women with HER2-positive breast cancer who had undergone a mastectomy and surgery to remove brain metastasis. After comparing the expression of proteins in the
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