Scientists have identified a potential target for the treatment of breast cancer.
They have discovered a protein, which could stop cancer tumours from growing and spreading.
Professor Reuven Agami, of the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam, found that the protein, known as BRD7, activates an anti-cancer gene, P53, which is already known to combat breast and other tumours.
Without the protein, the gene cannot function to stop tumours spreading.
The tumour suppressor P53 gene, present in all of us, is implicated in up to half of all tumours.
Agami found that the protein BRD7 activates P53 and could therefore suppress the development of cancer.
His said that although it is not clear how BRD7 can prevent the formation of a tumour, it is known that it is not always present in breast cancer.
Agami found that BRD7 activates P53, but when it is not present healthy cells can develop into a tumour.
"This research is very interesting because it identifies for the first time that this protein could have a role to play in a significant proportion of breast and other cancers," the Daily Express quoted Dr Caitlin Palframan, policy manager at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, as saying.
"Further studies are now needed to confirm this protein's role in cancer before it could be considered a potential target for new treatments," she added.
The study has been published online in Nature Cell Biology.