British medical scientists on Tuesday said they now know how to stop breast cancer spreading to distant organs, bringing fresh hope for the treatment of not only breast but many other cancers.
The important breakthrough was announced by the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), whose scientists have published pre-clinical research in the journal Cancer Research showing that blocking a key enzyme can halt the spread of breast cancer.
The enzyme lysyl oxidase-like 2 (LOXL2) is needed for tumour cells to escape from the breast and invade surrounding tissue, thereby allowing cancer cells to travel to distant organs. Using laboratory models, the team showed that blocking the function of LOXL2 significantly decreased the spread of the cancer from the breast to the lungs, liver and bone.
“Our study suggests that drugs which block this enzyme may be effective in preventing patients’ cancer from spreading,” lead researcher Dr Janine Erler said. In Britain alone, around 12,000 women die from breast cancer each year, mostly because their cancer has spread to other parts of their body. In 2008, 47,693 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.
In India, according to the institute, 115,251 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and 53,592 of them died — or 11 per 100,000 women. Worldwide, 1.38 million women were diagnosed with disease.
The research has many important implications for cancer treatment, doctors said, including that LOXL2 is linked to the spread of several other cancers, such as those of the colon, food pipe — particularly common among South Asians.