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Breast cancer metastasis may be linked to blood vessel cells

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A new study by scientists from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (TX, USA) suggests pericytes and angiopoietin signaling may represent a new therapeutic target to reduce the spread of breast cancer. Their results were published recently in the journal Cell Reports.

Pericytes are cells that surround capillary cells throughout the body, which are able to contract in order to regulate blood flow. As tumor growth and spread requires a sufficient blood supply, the depletion of pericytes has already been the subject of previous research.

The MD Anderson Cancer Center research team took this one step further by investigating how cellular signaling by the vascular growth factors termed angiopoietin-2 (ANG2) in combination with pericyte reduction could slow the spread of breast cancer to the lungs.

“Our study showed that angipoietin signaling is a key metastasis-promoting pathway associated with abnormal tumor blood vessels with poor pericytes coverage,” explained Valerie LeBleu (MD Anderson Cancer Center). “When combined with pericyte loss during the late phases of tumor progression, it is possible to reduce both primary tumor growth and metastatic disease.”

The team have further postulated that this combination could also lead to new therapy options for the treatment of certain breast cancers.

LeBleu commented: “Targeting of ANG2 signaling in tumors with abnormal blood vessels with low pericyte coverage appeared to restore vascular stability and decreased tumor growth and metastasis in lung cancer mouse models. We also found that ANG2 was tied to poor outcome in patients with breast cancer. These results emphasize the potential for therapies targeting in advanced tumors with poor quality blood vessels.”

Written by Daphne Boulicault

Source: The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center press release

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