SCIENTISTS have found a pattern of genetic 'switches' – chemical marks that turn genes on or off - that are linked to breast cancer's spread to the brain, according to research* presented at the National Cancer Research Institute Cancer Conference in Liverpool today (Wednesday).
The researchers, based at the University of Wolverhampton, studied 24 breast cancers that had spread to the brain, along with samples from the original breast tumour, and found a handful of genes with faulty switches.
Crucially, two of the genetic switches became faulty early on in the development of breast cancer, suggesting they may be an early warning signal for tumours that will spread to the brain. The scientists are now working to develop a blood test that might be able to detect these signals at an early stage, before the disease has spread.
Up to 30 per cent of breast cancers will eventually spread to the brain, often many years after the first tumour was treated. Tackling secondary brain tumours with radiotherapy and surgery has limited success, with most women surviving just seven months after the brain metastasis has been diagnosed.
By comparing chemical switches, known as DNA methylation, between the original breast cancer and the secondary brain tumour the researchers were able to narrow down from 120 potential candidates to find a 'signature' for cancers that had spread.
Study author Dr Mark Morris, based at the University of Wolverhampton, said: "Each year the number of women whose breast cancer spreads to the brain is increasing. While we know many of the genetic changes behind breast cancer, we know very little about why the disease can spread to the brain.
"By identifying the genes that are switched off or on in breast cancers before they spread to the brain we hope to be able to develop a blood test to spot this change. There's also potential for our findings to be used as a starting point to develop treatments that might prevent the spread."
Each year almost 50,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK and around 11,600 die from the disease.
Dr Abeer Shaaban, member of the NCRI Breast Clinical Studies Group, said: "Tackling the problem of brain metastases is one of the greatest challenges facing breast cancer researchers. This is an intriguing new angle to explore which underlines the importance of understanding how genes are controlled as cancer grows and spreads. We're understanding more and more about cancer's biology and this is opening exciting new avenues of research that could lead to new tests and treatments."
Simon Shears | EurekAlert!
Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden
The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy