A potential breakthrough against aggressive cancers

Researchers at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia have identified a protein that can play a critical role in the growth and spread of various forms of cancers, including breast cancer.

The loss of the protein, Nedd9, initially slows the growth of tumors, but over time the cancer cells that develop are more aggressive and spread to other parts of the body more quickly. But the lack of the Nedd9 protein makes the cancer more susceptible to an existing class of drugs Src inhibitors.

Mahendra K. Singh of the Fox Chase Cancer Center

The researchers tested one of those drugs -- dasatinib -- on the tumors without the Nedd9, and found that it quickly killed the cancer cells. Dasatinib is sold under the brand name Sprycel by the drug company Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., which did not fund the study. It was published online in the journal Cancer Research. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and other independent sources.

So while cancer cells that have low Nedd9 expression many become more aggressive and spread to the lungs and other parts of the body, the study’s lead author Mahendra K. Singh said because the tumors are susceptible to existing drugs, “my hunch is that this is going to be very important for understanding how best to treat patients in the future.”

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