A loss of protein does slow down breast cancer formation, but it also makes the tumours that do come up more aggressive, state Fox Chase Cancer Centre researchers.
However, the lack of Nedd9 also makes the aggressive tumours more sensitive to a class of drugs that are already used in the clinic.
"It is reminiscent of the situation you get when you treat cancer patients with a drug and get an initial response. However, eventually their tumour overrides the drug, and then you have a really tough tumour," said Erica A. Golemis at Fox Chase.
Because Nedd9 interacts directly with Src, a protein that has been a major drug development target, the team tested whether the Src inhibitor dasatinib, already approved for cancer treatment, would control the aggressive Nedd9-deficient tumours.
They found that dasatinib rapidly killed the Nedd9-deficient tumour cells, even at low doses.
The team now hopes to partner with clinician colleagues in trials to compare action of the drug in breast cancer patients whose tumours have low Nedd9 expression.
The study is published online October 12 in Cancer Research.