Scientists in Canada have uncovered the role played by a gene associated with the spread of breast cancer.
The gene PTP1b is known for its role in diabetes and obesity, explained Michel L. Tremblay, director of the McGill Centre for Cancer Research in Montreal.
Their study, published in the magazine Nature Genetics, shows that halting the activity of this gene in mice predisposed to cancer slowed the growth of - and in some cases, prevented - tumors.
"In this new study, we found that the role of PTP1b in modulating metabolism is equally crucial in the promotion of the proliferation and metastasis of cancer tumors." Tremblay said.
An article published by the same group of researchers in Science in 1999 showed that suppressing the enzyme produced by the gene PTP1b made it possible to cure type II diabetes and obesity.
A large number of pharmaceutical companies have since developed new inhibitors used in treatments for these diseases.
"Adapting these compounds is all that is needed to attack breast cancer," said Tremblay.