Change in immune system 'could increase risk of cancer spreading'

4 January 2011

A key change to the body's defence system could increase the risk of breast cancer spreading to other parts of the body, it has been found.

Researchers at the LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, led by Dr Shyamal Desai, assistant professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, found that cell transformations as a result of cancer growth affect the protein cytoskeleton, which usually acts as a scaffold to determine the shape of the cells and their relation to others.

However, cancer disrupts the genetic programmes of the protein and could alter the normal cytoskeletal function and increase the possibility that cancerous cells will spread to other organs.

Dr Desai said: "Our findings, for the first time, causally link an alteration in the ISG15 pathway [a cellular defence system] during transformation with metastatic potential thus providing a novel therapeutic target for future drug discovery."

He added that this discovery, published in the journal Experimental Biology and Medicine, could have implications for other cancers as well.

According to Macmillan Cancer Support, the causes of breast cancer are unknown but there are several risk factors, such as age, hormonal changes and previous cancer, that could help to explain a diagnosis.

Posted by Jeanette Royston

Desai, S., et al., "ISG15 disrupts cytoskeletal architecture and promotes motility in human breast cancer cells", Experimental Biology and Medicine, January 2012-01-04

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