Israeli scientists have managed to halt the advance of metastasis in cases of breast cancer using a newly developed molecular blocker, a discovery which could lead to the development of a therapeutic drug.
An estimated 90 percent of deaths from breast cancer occur due to complications resulting from metastasis, a process in which cancer cells break away from where they first formed, travel through the blood or lymph circulatory system and form new tumors in other parts of the body.
Cancer cells use feet-like protrusions called invadopodia to degrade underlying tissue, enter the bloodstream and form metastases in other organs. The formation of invadopodia is affected by the interaction of two proteins called Pyk2 and cortactin.
Researchers from Bar-Ilan University defined the segment of the protein involved in the interaction between these two proteins. They synthesized this small segment, or peptide, and administered it to breast cancer-bearing mice.
The synthesized peptide blocked the natural Pyk2 protein’s access to cortactin, inhibiting the formation of invadopodia. As a result, the mice’s lungs remained healthier, with very few, if any, metastases, according to findings recently published in the journal Oncogene.
“We were very excited to see that the idea to use the Pyk2-binding motif to cortactin as an inhibitor for invadopodia worked in vivo quite well,” says Bar-Ilan University’s Hava Gil-Henn, co-author of the study. “This served to prove the clinical potential of inhibiting the newly discovered interaction.”
Gil-Henn and her co-author, Prof. Jordan Chill, are now focused on transforming the peptide into a drug that could become part of the therapeutic approaches available to improve survival chances and quality of life of patients diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and other metastatic cancers.