Breast Cancer Cells Release Key Enzyme (Lysyl Oxidase) to Pre-Condition Bone for Metastasis; Blocking Enzyme May Help Thwart Secondary Cancers; Biphosphonates Effective in Animal Model

Leading scientists from the University of Sheffield in the UK and the University of Copenhagen in Denmark have identified a possible key to preventing secondary cancers in breast cancer patients, after discovering an enzyme which enhances the spread of the disease. Secondary (metastatic) breast cancer is the main cause of the 12,000 deaths which occur from breast cancer in the UK every year. The most common site for the disease to spread is the bone – occurring in approximately 85 per cent of secondary breast cancer patients. The new research found that the enzyme lysyl oxidase (LOX) released from the primary tumor creates holes in bone and prepares the bone for the future arrival of cancer cells. The work was published online on May 27, 2015 in an open-access article in Nature. The article is titled “ The findings suggest that identifying LOX in estrogen-receptor-negative (ER-negative) breast cancer patients early on, could allow doctors to block the enzyme’s activity, preventing bone damage, and the subsequent spread of breast tumor cells to the bone (metastasis), halting the progression of the disease. The researchers also showed that treatment with bisphosphonate, an existing class of drug which prevents the loss of bone mass and is already used to treat diseases such as osteoporosis, was able to prevent the changes in the bone and the spread of the disease in mice. The pioneering research, co-led by Dr. Alison Gartland at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Human Metabolism, could lead to a better prognosis for cancer patients in the longer term. Dr. Gartland said: “This is important progress in the fight against breast cancer metastasis and these findings could lead to new treatments to stop secondary breast tumors growing in the bone, increasing the chances of survival for thousands of patients.”
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