London: Scientists have claimed that a new method of modelling breast cancer could help identify potentially lethal spreading tumours.
In its research, published in the `Nature Medicine` journal, a team at University of Utah has found that donated tumour tissue placed directly into mouse mammary glands behaved exactly as it did in human patients.
The grafts remained unchanged in structure, genetic make- up and behaviour. This does not happen with the traditional approach, which involves first growing cancer cells in the laboratory.
Most significantly, the grafted tumour tissue followed the same migration path it took in humans, says the team.
"The most surprising result was that the tumour grafts spread from the original site, or metastasised, just as they did in the human patients," `The Independent` quoted study leader Dr Alana Welm as saying.
"For example, grafts of tumour tissue from patients whose cancer had spread to the lung also spread to the lungs of the mice that received them," Welm added.
The most successful grafts were nearly all from patients with aggressive forms of breast cancer who ultimately died of their illness.
Most cancer deaths occur as a result of the disease spreading to vital parts of the body such as the lungs, liver or brain.
And, the team believes it could lead to ways of predicting whether a tumour is likely to spread soon after diagnosis. This would help doctors select the best treatment approach for an individual patient.
"There is also the potential to develop similar models for other cancers using this method.
We are already working on this with colon cancer tissues," Dr Welm said.