The team has studied the most common kind of breast tumour--estrogen-positive (ER +) and accounting for 80% of breast cancer tumour cases--that is characterised by a long period of latency with no symptoms. The study has been published in
‘Protein kinase MSK1 is a key regulator of dormant or latent metastases; breast cancers that do not express MSK1 are associated with a risk of earlier relapse, while those that express this molecule will form metastases later.’
MSK1, the protein that keeps tumour cells dormant
The team has identified the protein kinase MSK1 as a key regulator of dormant or latent metastases. Using clinical samples from patients, the scientists have confirmed that ER + breast cancer tumours that do not express MSK1 are associated with a risk of earlier relapse, while those that express this molecule will form metastases later.
"We are interested in understanding the mechanisms underlying metastasis and the time component of this process. Until now, little was known in preclinical models about the mechanisms that allow breast cancer cells to leave the latent state and even less is known in patients," explains Roger Gomis, head of the Growth Control and Cancer Metastasis Lab.
The researchers believe that in the future this discovery may benefit patients in two ways. Firstly, it will help to identify those with an imminent risk of relapse and to adjust the treatment for this prognosis. Secondly, attempts could be made to design a treatment to mimic the function of MSK1 kinase, with the aim to maintain metastatic lesions in a latent and asymptomatic state for as long as possible.