Australian researchers have identified an invasive protein molecule that could cause aggressive breast cancers in a major breakthrough.
In a study published on Tuesday, a team from the University of South Australia (UniSA) found that the molecule ZCCHC24, which has never been studied before, appears to change the structure of breast cancer cells to make them more aggressive.
Philip Gregory, the lead author of the study and laboratory head at UniSA’s Center of Cancer Biology, said that understanding the molecule could offer life-changing solutions to preventing the spread of breast cancer.
“Understanding why some forms of breast cancer spread and others don’t is vital in understanding how to treat breast cancer,” he said in a media release.
“In this research, we’re drilling down to look at individual cancer cells and trying to find out what makes them turn from being benign to being aggressive. Once they become aggressive, these cells can go rogue, branching out across the body and making them very difficult to treat.
“What we’ve discovered is a molecule that appears to be strongly turned on in the most aggressive cancer cells. When we block the action of this molecule, the cells completely change and become far less aggressive.
“This molecule is particularly abundant in aggressive breast cancers, which can be extremely difficult to treat. By understanding how the molecule works, we could unlock new treatments for the disease.”
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. It is estimated that about 20,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in Australia in 2020, according to UniSA. And it is the second-leading cause of cancer death among women.
Lincoln Size, the chief executive of the Cancer Council SA, said that the findings could “transform treatments for breast cancer in the future.”