Genes found to play a role in breast cancer’s spread to the brain

Breast Cancer Awareness BraceletsNew research led by investigators at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) identifies three genes that specifically mediate the metastasis, or spread, of breast cancer to the brain and illuminates the mechanisms by which this spread occurs. The study was published online today in Nature.

According to the study, COX2 and HB-EGF — genes that induce cancer cell mobility and invasiveness — were found to be genetic mediators in the spread of breast cancer to the brain. A third gene, ST6GALNAC5, was shown to provide cancer cells with the capability of exiting the blood circulation and passing through the blood-brain barrier to enter the brain tissue.

"Our research sheds light on the role these genes play in determining how breast tumor cells break free and, once mobile, how they decide where to attack," said Joan Massagué, PhD, Chair of the Cancer Biology and Genetics Program at MSKCC and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

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