Friday, January 17, 2014

How Breast Cancer Cells Cause Brain Tumors

Women & Cancer

An article, by Nicole White, in ScienceDaily explains how breast cancer cells disguise themselves as neurons to cause brain tumors. This is a finding from the latest study at City of Hope, a major cancer-research centre in California.

White writes:
Breast cancer cells masquerade as neurons, allowing them to hide from the immune system, cross the blood-brain barrier and begin to form ultimately-deadly brain tumors, the researchers found. "The most dreaded location for cancer to spread is the brain," said Rahul Jandial, a City of Hope neurosurgeon who led the study, available online and slated for print publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in February. "As we have become better at keeping cancer at bay with drugs such as Herceptin, women are fortunately living longer. In this hard-fought life extension, brain metastastes are being unmasked as the next battleground for extending the lives of women with breast cancer."
Jandial and other City of Hope scientists wanted to explore how breast cancer cells cross the blood-brain barrier -- a separation of the blood circulating in the body from fluid in the brain -- without being destroyed by the immune system. "If, by chance, a malignant breast cancer cell swimming in the bloodstream crossed into the brain, how would it survive in a completely new, foreign habitat?"Jandial said. Jandial and his team's hypothesis: Given that the brain is rich in many brain-specific types of chemicals and proteins, perhaps breast cancer cells exploit these resources by assuming similar properties. These cancer cells could potentially deceive the immune system by blending in with the neurons, neurotransmitters, other types of proteins, cells and chemicals.
Taking samples from brain tumors resulting from breast cancer, Jandial and his team found that the breast cancer cells were using the brain's most abundant chemical as a fuel source. This chemical, GABA, is a neurotransmitter used for communication between neurons. When compared to cells from non-metastatic breast cancer, the metastasized cells expressed a receptor for GABA, as well as for a protein that draws the transmitter into cells. This allowed the cancer cells to essentially masquerade as neurons.
Knowing how cancer cells operate, especially in how they disguise themselves can lead to innovative and effective ways to stop them dead in their nefarious schemes. Cancer is still a deadly disease, and in many ways it's both a war and a race against time.

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You can read the rest of the article at [ScienceDaily].

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