New York: Researchers have identified a protein that is strongly associated with metastatic breast cancer and that could be a target for future therapies.
Metastatic breast cancer is cancer that has spread to other sites in the body, and the vast majority of breast cancer deaths occur in patients in whom cancer has metastasised.
The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, suggest that high levels of the protein ZMYND8 could be correlated with poor survival in breast cancer patients.
Previous research had shown that breast cancer cells that are more aggressive in an oxygen-deprived, or hypoxic, environment.
A protein family called hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) controls responses to hypoxia, switching on pathways that lead to cancer cell growth and spread.
"Our research shows that ZMYND8 is a regulator that activates hundreds of HIF-dependent oncogenes in breast cancer cells," said Weibo Luo, Assistant Professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in the US.
Research with a mouse model of breast cancer showed that depletion of the protein blocks the growth of new blood vessels in tumours and leads to breast cancer cell death.
This work "reveals a possible molecular target for diagnosis and treatment of aggressive disease", Luo said.