There are no doubts that cancer is one of the diseases that afflict our population the most. The dreaded disease can appear in anyone; it doesn't care about the race, color of the skin, or how much money a person has. The most common type of cancer in women is breast cancer. It can occur at any period of life, so monitoring and checking your breasts is key to preventing or recognizing the disease on time. However, for those who have already been diagnosed with it, a new discovery might change their lives.
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Roger Gomis, a researcher from the laboratory of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) in Barcelona, has worked together with the Vall d'Hebron Research Institute on a research which had a goal to identify a gene involved in the latent state of asymptomatic breast cancer. The main contribution of the research was the discovery of the particular reasons behind the variation of time in the process of metastasis of breast cancer among various patients, according to Gomis.
We are interested in understanding the mechanisms underlying metastasis and the time component of this process. Until now, little was known in preclinical models about the mechanisms that allow breast cancer cells to leave the latent state, and even less is known in patients.
The team devoted itself to analyzing the most frequent breast cancer (hormone-dependent), in which the estrogen receptor (ER+) is manifested. This type of cancer has a rate of between 70% and 80% of all cases.
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This type of cancer is less aggressive than triple negative and HER2+, but also can metastasize. Only a small group of those who are affected by the hormone-dependent breast cancer relapse in less than five years. These patients have a sustained risk of reoccuring of the tumor throughout their lives: 10, 20, or even 30 years after the end of treatment.
The questions of why the tumor can reoccur and why in some cases metastasis appears much sooner, while in others it could take decades to spread to other parts of the body, were answered by one protein – MSK1. According to scientists, when this protein is present in the body, it slows down the development of ER+ breast cancer:
Our results indicate that MSK1 prevents metastatic progression of ER+ breast cancer, suggesting that stratifying patients with breast cancer as high or low risk for early relapse based on MSK1 expression could improve prognosis.
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Even if the metastatic cells are already present in the body, MSK1 helps to keep them in a latent state, or simply asleep. The discovered molecules act in a way that slows the cancer cells down, which, according to Gomis:
...could help identify those people at close risk of relapse. It is already known that the sooner cancer is detected, the more options there are to act early.
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Discovering this protein opens the possibility of developing a mechanism that scientists could use to create a new treatment or drug, which can help prevent cancer from growing.
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