New research (because we always need more research) has discovered that a certain trio of cells are necessary for breast cancer to spread. This is important. It can lead to better tests for determining which breast cancer patients will spread and to better anticancer therapies.
"In earlier studies involving animal models and human cancer cell lines,
researchers found that breast cancer spreads when three specific cells
are in direct contact: an endothelial cell (a type of cell that lines
the blood vessels), a perivascular macrophage (a type of immune cell
found near blood vessels), and a tumor cell that produces high levels of
Mena, a protein that enhances a cancer cell's ability to spread. Where
these three cells come in contact is where tumor cells can enter blood
vessels--a site called a tumor microenvironment of metastasis, or TMEM.
Tumors with high numbers of TMEM sites (i.e., they have a high TMEM
"score") were more likely to metastasize than were tumors with lower
TMEM scores. In addition, the researchers found that cancer tissues high
in a form of Mena called MenaINV were especially likely to metastasize.
(MenaINV refers to the invasive form of Mena.)"
"Those studies revealed new insights into how cancer might spread, but
they didn't necessarily show what is happening in patients," said study
leader Maja Oktay, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pathology..."
This all leads to some progress but not enough. The best part of this is that it could help women with metastatic cancer.
""These results confirm that TMEM sites and MenaINV are essential for
the spread of breast cancer in humans," said Dr. Oktay. "They also imply
that MenaINV expression and TMEM score measure related aspects of a
commonly used mechanism that human breast cancers use to metastasize."
Dr. Oktay noted that "the outcome for patients with metastatic breast cancer
hasn't improved in the past 30 years despite the development of
targeted therapies. It's critically important to learn more about the
metastatic process so we can develop new ways to predict whether cancer
will spread and identify new treatments.""
But I can live with all this for now.