A receptor protein suppresses local invasion and metastasis of breast cancer cells, the most lethal aspect of the disease, according to a research team headed by scientists from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Reporting online on September 23, 2012 in Nature Medicine, the team described using high-throughput RNA sequencing to identify the leukemia inhibitory factor receptor (LIFR) as a novel suppressor of breast cancer metastasis, the spread of the disease to other organs. "Based on our findings, we propose that restoring the expression or the function of key metastasis suppressors like LIFR could be used to block breast cancer metastasis," said lead investigator Li Ma, Ph.D., assistant professor in MD Anderson's Department of Experimental Radiation Oncology. "Lack of clinically proven prognostic markers and therapeutic agents for metastasis are major barriers for eradicating breast cancer deaths," Dr. Ma said. "Although many metastasis-promoting genes have been identified, they have not been translated into clinical practice. The exceptions are the HER2- and VEGF-targeting agents, which have shown measurable, but moderate, benefit in the clinic." Only a few genes have been established as metastasis suppressors, Dr. Ma said, and many researchers believe that such genes play only a minor role in metastasis. The investigators in this study, however, found that LIFR is "highly relevant in human tumors." While 94 percent of normal human breast tissues show high LIFR expression, LIFR is downregulated or lost in a significant fraction of patients with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) or invasive breast cancer, and loss of LIFR closely correlates with poor clinical outcomes. Dr.
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