Key Jigsaw Piece in Cancer Discovered


Scientists have discovered a crucial piece in the cancer jigsaw, identifying one key enzyme responsible for allowing cancer to spread, according to a study published in Cancer Cell.

Cancer metastasis, the spreading of cancer from its original location, is responsible for 90 per cent of cancer related deaths.

Lead researcher Dr Janine Erler from The Institute of Cancer Research has discovered that the LOX enzyme is crucial in promoting metastasis and says:

“This research has identified how to prevent a cancer from establishing itself in a new area of the body. This is the crucial missing piece in the jigsaw that scientists have been searching for and is the first time one key enzyme has been identified as being responsible for effectively allowing the cancer to spread.

“LOX works by sending out signals to prepare a new area of the body for the cancer to set up camp. Without this preparation process the new environment would be too hostile for the cancer to grow. If we can interrupt the body’s ability to prepare new locations for the cancer to spread to, we can effectively prevent cancer metastasis.”

The paper looked specifically at how LOX enables the spread of breast cancer, but researchers have evidence that the enzyme is also crucial in the metastasis of other common cancers.

The Institute of Cancer Research hopes to use the discovery of how LOX works to aid the spread of cancer to develop new drug treatments to prevent cancer metastasis.

“Cancer metastasis is very difficult to treat and this new discovery provides real hope that we can develop a drug which will fight the spreading of cancer,” Dr Erler said. - ICR


February 2009