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Three Genes Linked to Breast Cancer Metastases

Last Updated: May 08, 2009.

Three different genes may mediate the spread of breast cancer to the brain, according to a study published online May 6 in Nature.

FRIDAY, May 8 (HealthDay News) -- Three different genes may mediate the spread of breast cancer to the brain, according to a study published online May 6 in Nature.

Paula D. Bos, of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and colleagues isolated brain-targeting cancer cells from women with advanced disease, performed gene-expression profiling, and inoculated immunodeficient female mice with CN34 and MDA231 cells.

The researchers found that two genes that promote cancer cell mobility and invasiveness -- COX2 and HB-EGF -- are genetic mediators of brain metastases. They also found that a third gene -- ST6GalNac5 -- is responsible for a chemical reaction that coats breast cancer cells with an enzyme that enables them to cross the blood-brain barrier.

"These findings draw attention to the role of cell surface sialylation as a previously unrecognized participant in brain metastasis, and to the possibility of therapeutically disrupting these interactions," the authors write. "Our work also points at other candidate brain metastasis genes, including genes implicated in vascular permeability and leukocyte infiltration during brain inflammatory processes, and genes implicated in neurite extension and astrocyte cell processes. The role of these genes in brain metastasis and their interest as therapeutic targets is open to further analysis."

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