Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have identified a protein they believe causes breast cancer to metastasize, or grow and move to other parts of the body.
Pharmacology Professor Marcelo Kazanietz and his team found the protein, called “P-Rex1,” at very high levels in more than half of the breast-cancer patients tested.
“I think it’s going to have a significant impact in our understanding of the breast cancer biology,” Kazanietz said.
More research is needed, but Kazanietz says the finding may lead to new drug treatments that could help women if they develop resistance to common breast cancer drugs now on the market.
“If we can engineer breast cancer cells in which we get rid of P-Rex1, those cells cannot move at all,” Kazanietz said. “And therefore it’s impossible for those cells to go to other parts of the body.”
The protein is found in only very low levels in non-cancerous cells, so any future drugs would provide targeted treatment, unlike some older cancer drugs.