A major breakthrough in search of a cure for breast cancer has been made by Brit scientists, who may develop a drug within two years to beat the life threatening disease.
Instead of looking at how to stop tumours from forming, the new study has found a key molecule that cancer manipulates to spread throughout the body.
And it is this molecule that kills 90 per cent of breast cancer victims, say the researchers.
They have found how breast cancer cells switch off these vital molecules, called -microRNAs, which allows the malignant cells to spread unhindered and grow in another part of the body.
Now, the scientists are working on a drug to stop this process.
"There are no available drugs as yet but they should be available within a couple of years. This is a potential cure for breast cancer. This is a step on the way to it and it helps us understand the way breast cancer cells grow and divide and if we understand this then we understand how it stop it," the Daily Express quoted Dr. Justin Stebbing, at London's Imperial College, one of the experts behind the landmark discovery, as saying.
Experts have said that the discovery has explained why some women on so-called wonder drugs like Tamoxifen can still suffer a relapse with the cancer growing back.
Around two thirds of breast cancer victims are oestrogen-receptor positive, which means that they depend on the female hormone oestrogen to grow.
But the researchers have now discovered that microRNAs could hold the key to beating the deadly disease.
In healthy cells microRNAs stop them from growing and dividing but in breast cancer cells the microRNAs are turned off, and thus the experts are hoping to develop a drug to prevent this.
This means that the molecules will be produced with the help of breast cancer cells, stopping oestrogen fuelling the cancer spread.
"The oestrogen receptor is incredibly important in breast cancer. Most of the treatments around treating breast cancer are blocking it or inhibiting the oestrogen but despite that about half of all women relapse," said Stebbing.
"We have found a new genetic pathway that the oestrogen receptor activates, very small molecules called microRNAs that are made of fragments of genetic material. In normal cells, oestrogen stimulates the production of microRNAs but they then stop oestrogenic activity that can fuel cell division, so it is like a perfect circle. But in breast cancer cells, production of the molecules is turned off."
"The way to cure breast cancer or any cancer is by fundamental biological understanding of what turns cells on and off, stopping the way tumours grow. We can use these microRNAs as a new treatment and make them do what current drugs don't do."
"If we know how to stop it then we can cure it. This only applies in oestrogen positive breast cancer but this could save millions of lives," he added.
Dr Laura Bell, of Cancer Research UK, said: "This may one day prove useful in future drug development that aims to treat diseases where oestrogen is thought to play a role, as in breast cancers that are oestrogen receptor positive.
The study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.