Drug Combination Helps Prevent Breast Cancer Spread
A diagnosis of breast cancer can be a difficult one to accept, but when breast cancer spreads, or metastasizes, the prognosis worsens and the fight for survival heightens. A Chicago researcher has found that a drug combination may target the invasion and spread of breast cancer.
The spread, or metastasis, of breast cancer means that cancer cells break away from the primary tumor and enter the bloodstream or lymphatic system, which carries the cancer cells to other parts of the body. Thus if breast cancer cells spread to the lungs, the metastatic tumor in the lung is composed of breast cancer cells, not lung cells. Metastatic breast cancer is classified as stage 4 disease. An estimated 155,000 women in the United States have metastatic breast cancer, and that number is projected to rise to about 162,000 by 2011. Between 20 and 30 percent of all women who are diagnosed with breast cancer eventually develop metastatic breast cancer.
In the laboratory, a team of scientists from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine evaluated the impact of the breast cancer drug doxorubicin when combined with the leukemia drug dasatinib as well as dasatinib alone on women’s breast cancer cells. They found that the combination of cancer drugs inhibited breast cancer cell invasion by half. Dasatinib targets an enzyme called Src kinase, which experts believe plays a role in the invasion and spread of breast cancer.
This is the first time drugs have been found that target the invasion and spread of breast cancer to other organs in the body. It is also the first time dasatinib has been evaluated alone and in combination with doxorubicin on the proliferation, viability, and invasive capacity of breast cancer cells. Currently available drugs can only try to stop the uncontrolled cancer cell division within the ducts.
In this study, the leukemia drug dasatinib alone had an impact on the invasion and spread of breast cancer. However, the results also point to a synergistic effect when the drug is used in combination, and thus dasatinib has potential as an effective agent in combination drug therapies to prevent the spread of invasive breast cancer.
American Cancer Society
Pichot CS et al. British Journal of Cancer 2009 Jul 7; 101(1): 38-47