Cancer stem cells (CSC) express high levels of RANK protein. Inhibitors of the RANK signaling pathway are already approved for clinical use. RANK inhibitors are currently used in patients with osteoporosis and in the prevention of skeletal-related events in patients suffering from bone metastases due to tumors.
Pharmacological and genetic inhibition of signaling pathway RANK / RANKL leads to a significant reduction in recurrences and metastases in breast cancer in a mouse animal model, revealed researchers at the Institute of Biomedical Research of Bellvitge (IDIBELL), led by Dr. Eva Gonzalez-Suarez.
The findings, published in Cancer Research, suggest that RANK inhibitors may have potential for treating breast cancer.
In their latest work, researchers show that inhibition of the RANK / RANKL signaling pathway could potentially be used as a new therapy in breast cancer; as Dr. Gonzelez-Suerez puts it, "this inhibition does not reduce tumor growth, but promotes differentiation, reducing the population of CSC and impairing metastasis, which improves the prognosis."
Under normal conditions, the RANK / RANKL bone metabolism protein pair act as a translator of the information provided by sex hormones such as progesterone and sends a signal which stimulates the development of the mammary gland. This occurs in all women during pregnancy and during the menstrual cycle; however, if the signaling pathway is disregulated, mammary cells begin to divide and multiply and die when they should not, leading to breast cancer.
"As these preclinical experiments suggest, and given that the RANKL / RANK pathway plays an important role in the development of primary breast cancer, inhibitors could serve as a potential target for the prevention and nonsurgical treatment of breast cancer," the researcher concludes.