When a tumour cell spreads, it enters the blood stream before latching onto the inner walls of blood vessels. The new study, funded by Cancer Research UK, found the cancer cells gain control of a receptor protein called EPHA2 to help push their way out of the vessels into the rest of the body.
However, when the protein is ‘turned on’, the diseased cells are unable to leave and travel to other areas of the anatomy.
Breast cancer is the most common strain of the disease for women around the world, with the World Cancer Research Fund recording almost 1.7 million new cases in 2012. It’s hoped this life-changing discovery offers hope to all those suffering, as drugs to target and activate the protein could be developed.
“The next step is to figure out how to keep this receptor switched on, so that the tumour cells can’t leave the blood vessels – stopping breast cancer spreading and making the disease easier to treat successfully,” Dr Claus Jorgensen, of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, explained.
Cancer Research UK’s senior science information manager, Nell Barrie, has noted how important this research is, as it sheds light on how the cancer cells leave the vessels and contaminate other areas.
“Research like this is vital to help our understanding of how cancer spreads, and how to stop this from happening,” he added. “More research is needed before this will benefit patients but it’s a jump in the right direction.”
This breakthrough comes after it was reported at the end of last year that a high percentage of females are unaware of the early warning signs of breast cancer. Breast Cancer Care surveyed over 1,100 women only to find that while 96 per cent of them knew a lump was an indicator, they didn’t know any other symptoms. Redness, rashes and an inverted nipple are other signs – if in doubt, seek a medical professional to get checked.