A team of scientists has identified five genes involved in the metastasis of breast tumours to the lung.
The team from the University of Navarra, the Applied Medical Research Centre (CIMA) and the University Hospital of the University of Navarra, used a transgenic mouse model that presented a greater tendency for developing metastasis, for the study.
Doctor Alfonso Calvo, researcher in the area of Oncology at the CIMA, led the work with the special collaboration of Doctor Ignacio Gil Bazo, cancer specialist from the University Hospital.
The increase in what is known as the Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) in the animal model's mammary glands triggered profound changes in the tumoural structure, which enabled the malignant cells to leave the tumour and invade the lungs.
Finally, the pattern of genes responsible for this tumoural migration to the lungs was analysed and this was compared to that shown by women with breast tumours with pulmonary metastatic affectation. It was shown that five of these genes were common to the animal model and patients with breast cancer.
According to the results of this study, of the five genes identified, the Tenascina-C gene seems to be a good therapeutic target for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer.
In fact, the blocking of the expression of this gene in the animal model enabled a significant reduction, both in tumour growth and in the incidence of pulmonary metastasis.
This new discovery in the complex network that is the metastasis process of tumours provides key data on the knowledge of cancer and its spreading, the researchers said.
At the same time identifying new targets for which new pharmaceutical medicines that contribute to more efficacious treatment of this disease can be designed, they added.