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Joan Massagué, scientific advisor to the PCB, identifies the genes that cause of breast cancer metastasis to the lungs

By 1 de August de 2005November 18th, 2020No Comments
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Joan Massagué, scientific advisor to the PCB, identifies the genes that cause of breast cancer metastasis to the lungs

Joan Massagué, current scientific advisor to the PCB and who will shortly be heading a new line of oncological research on metastasis at the of the PCB, has identified a group of genes that regulate breast cancer metastasis to the lungs. This discovery opens up new possibilities to improve the diagnosis of breast cancer as well as initiate new lines of research for drug development. The results of this study, performed by researchers at the in New York and directed by Joan Massagué, were published in the 28 July issue of the journal Nature.

About one in four women receiving surgery and chemotherapy for breast cancer develop metastasis, generally in lungs or bones, and the dissemination of tumours towards vital organs accounts for most deaths caused by cancer. This study reveals the presence of sets of specific genes that mediate metastasis to several vital organs. Specifically, these researchers have identified a group of 54 genes responsible for inducing breast cancer metastasis to the lungs. The study reports that this group of genes in lung tumours is also found in primary breast cancer tumours, thereby conditioning the appearance of lung cancer. When this set of genes is activated in a primary breast tumour, the probability of developing aggressive lung metastasis increases to 55%, while when not activated it is reduced to 10%. In a previous study, Joan Massagué described a distinct set of genes to those described here which promotes metastasis to bone. These findings therefore support the notion that each kind of metastasis requires a certain set of genes.

To perform this study, human cancer cells were inoculated in mice in order to select the most aggressive cells. Later, through analysing the genetic activity of these cells, researchers identified a group of 54 genes that determine the capacity of these cells for lung metastasis. Finally, the presence of these genes in primary breast tumours was examined in mice and later in humans, using samples from 87 women with breast cancer.

The results from this study will contribute to better orienting research into new pharmaceutical agents that block some of the genes in this set in order to inhibit the progression of cancer. In addition, these results offer the possibility to predict the degree of tumour aggressivity, to orient future treatments on a more personalized basis and also to introduce preventive measures.

Shortly, and as a continuation of the oncological studies performed at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, Joan Massagué will take charge of a new cancer research line on metastasis at the Institute of Biomedical Research of the PCB. Named Metlab, this group will form part of the new Translational and Applied Oncology Programme (ATOP), which will include between 8 and 10 additional research teams.