Features Partner Sites Information LinkXpress
Sign In
Demo Company

Breast Cancer Metastasis Depends on Expression of Leader Cell Protein

By BiotechDaily International staff writers
Posted on 24 Dec 2013
Print article
Image: A breast tumor (blue) uses leader cells (green) to invade muscle tissue (red) in a mouse (Photo courtesy of Dr. Kevin Cheung, Cell).
Image: A breast tumor (blue) uses leader cells (green) to invade muscle tissue (red) in a mouse (Photo courtesy of Dr. Kevin Cheung, Cell).
Cell biologists have identified a protein that they regard as a potential drug target in a unique class of breast cancer cells that lead the process of metastasis into surrounding tissues.

Carcinomas typically migrate into normal tissues as a cohesive multicellular unit, a process termed collective invasion. It has been unclear how different subpopulations of cancer cells contributed to this process.

Investigators at Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD, USA) developed three-dimensional organoid assays to identify the most invasive cancer cells in primary breast tumors. They reported in the December 12, 2013, online edition of the journal Cell that collective invasion was led by specialized cancer cells (leader cells) that were defined by their expression of basal epithelial genes, such as cytokeratin-14 (K14) and p63. Furthermore, examination of human tumor samples showed that K14-expressing cells led collective invasion in the major human breast cancer subtypes.

To confirm the role of K14 in the invasive process, the investigators used gene therapy techniques to block its expression in some tumor lines. Cancer cells with blocked K14 expression and similar but untreated cancer cells were then implanted into different sites on the same mouse. Examination of the resulting tumors showed that leader cells were present in the K14-expressing tumors and were leading vigorous invasions into normal tissue. In the tumors with blocked K14 expression essentially no invasions occurred.

"Metastasis is what most threatens breast cancer patients, and we have found a way to stop the first part of the process in mice," said senior author Dr. Andrew Ewald, assistant professor of cell biology at Johns Hopkins University. "We are still several years away from being able to use these insights to help patients with breast cancer, but we now know which tumor cells are the most dangerous, and we know some of the proteins they rely on to do their dirty work. Just a few leader cells are sufficient to start the process of metastasis, and they require K14 to lead the invasion."

Related Links:

Johns Hopkins University

Print article



view channel
Image: A partially completed three-dimensional printed airway from nostril to trachea with fine structure of the nasal cavity showing (Photo courtesy of Dr. Rui Ni, Pennsylvania State University).

The Structure of the Nasal Cavity Channels Food Smells into the Nose and Avoids the Lungs

Three-dimensional printing technology was used to create a model of the nasal cavity that enabled researchers to demonstrate why the smell of food goes into the nose rather than down into the lungs.... Read more


view channel
Image: Structure of the protein encoded by the CFTR gene (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

Advanced Gene Therapy Cures Cystic Fibrosis in Culture and Mouse Models

Improvements in gene therapy technology enabled restoration of ion channel function in cultures of cells from cystic fibrosis (CF) patients and in a CF mouse model. In cystic fibrosis, mutations of... Read more

Lab Technologies

view channel
Image:  The BioSpa 8 Automated Incubator (Photo courtesy of BioTek Instruments).

Smart Incubator System Automates Live Cell Assay Operations

A new instrument that automates laboratory workflow by linking microplate washers and dispensers with readers and imaging systems is now available for biotech and other life sciences researchers.... Read more


view channel

Purchase of Biopharmaceutical Company Will Boost Development of Nitroxyl-Based Cardiovascular Disease Drugs

A major international biopharmaceutical company has announced the acquisition of a private biotech company that specializes in the development of drugs for treatment of cardiovascular disease. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (New York, NY, USA) has initiated the process to buy Cardioxyl Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Chapel Hill, NC, USA).... Read more
Copyright © 2000-2015 Globetech Media. All rights reserved.