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New Insight on How Breast Cancer Spreads

It has long been understood that women with higher density breasts are at a higher risk for breast cancer. Women have denser breasts when they have excess of a protein called collagen; thus, higher collagen = higher breast density = higher cancer risk. 

However, this simple understanding provides no insight or explanation as to prevention or treatment, until now. 
Researchers at the University School of Medicine in St. Louis published their findings in Nature Cell Biology on May 5th stating that they have opened a new door into understanding and treating this prevalence of breast cancer in denser breasted patients. 

Without going into the complicated biology of the researcher’s explanation, following is this new breakthrough described in layman’s terms. 

Comparative breast cancer research and experiments have been conducted on mice. Through this research, they found a protein called DDR2 that sits on the surface of tumor cells and binds to collagen to create a pathway that promotes the spread of tumor cells. Before this experiment, DDR2 was known to exist, but was never implicated with cancer growth, especially breast cancer. 

Additionally, DDR2 helps maintain high levels of SNAIL1 in the tumor. SNAIL1 has been associated with breast cancer metastasis for a long time; but no one was aware that DDR2 helped keep SNAIL1 healthy and growing, which is the opposite of what a patient would want. DDR2 does not initiative these high levels of SNAIL1, but DDR2 is required in order for SNAIL1 to function. 

There is good news, however. Because DDR2 is located on the outside of the cell, it is much easier to isolate, treat and medicate DDR2 because reaching the outside of the cell is much easier to do in the medical world than dissecting the inside of cells. 

Thus, we have unlocked a key piece of the puzzle that can help us eventually prevent the spread of breast cancer, and solve this entire puzzle for good. 

Sources: Science Daily

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