A few months ago it was discovered that four specific gene products are closely involved in breast cancer cells spreading (metastasize) into the lung. The work was published in PNAS and Nature.
The researchers took human breast cancer cells and using a technique called RNA interference they blocked the expression of each of these 4 genes individually and in different combinations. They then implanted these cancer cells into mice.
When any of the individual genes were inactivated the primary tumor growth and lung metastasis were inhibited a little. But when all four were inactivated – the tumor growth and spread into the lungs was almost completely stopped!
The four genes are:
- epiregulin – involved in the growth and progression of some cancers
- cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2) – involved in inflammation responses
- matrix metalloproteinase 1 (MMP1) – involved with angiogenesis and tumor cell migration
- matrix metalloproteinase 2 (MMP2) – involved with angiogenesis and tumor cell migration
Using drugs already available:
- celecoxib (Celebrex) – an inhibitor of COX2
- cetuximab (Erbitux) – and antibody against EGFR
- GM6001 – a broad MMP inhibitor (still in preclinical trials)
they were able to get the same results in the mice – almost all the primary tumor growth and metastasis were eliminated.
Future research will include investigating whether or not these four genes are involved in metastasis into other organs and if multidrug targeting of these gene products will be effective in people.
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