Breast Cancer: Study Shows Statins Could Slow Metastasis Of Breast Cancer To The Brain
: A new research by oncologists from the University of Notre Dame-Indiana shows that statins which are drugs used to treat high cholesterol could interfere with the way breast cancer cells adapt to the microenvironment in the brain, preventing the cancer from taking hold. Patients with breast cancer who experience this type of metastasis typically survive for only months after diagnosis.
The research findings were published in the journal: Nature Communications https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-16832-2
In the study, statins, a group of drugs commonly prescribed for those with high cholesterol, were shown to interfere with a pathway that allows a cancer cell to recycle cell surface proteins and therefore make it easier for cancer cells to live within the brain.
Dr Siyuan Zhang, the Dee Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, and principal investigator told Thailand Medical News, "It normally takes a decade to develop new medications. Instead of waiting, we can repurpose medications people are already taking. Statins are relatively safe drugs, and they can even be given, if doctors choose, to try to prevent metastasis."
The research found that the protein Rab11b brings "recycled" proteins back to the surface like a fast-moving Ferris wheel. Statins suppress breast cancer survival in the brain by inhibiting the ability of Rab11b to recycle surface proteins. As a result of less recycling, the surface of metastatic tumor cells is less sticky. This limits the survival of cancer cells, and ultimately slows the rate of tumor colonization in the brain microenvironment.
In order to complete the research, Dr Zhang's lab completed gene profiling to screen for genes that were functionally important in inhibiting the way tumor cells adapted to the brain, Zhang said. Then, they used a fruit fly tumor model to perform a genetic tumor growth screen, allowing the team to quickly narrow down a subset of genes that might be important for tumor formation in the brain.
Dr Zhang, who is affiliated with the Harper Cancer Research Institute further added, "We knew Rab11b sits downstream of an enzyme that is important for cholesterol synthesis, so once we recognized its role, we thought that statins could knock Rab11b back from its role in pushing the other proteins up to the surface in metastatic breast cancer in the brain."
Dr Zhang's lab seeks uses of already US FDA-approved drugs to target cancer metastasis because they are already known to be safe, which allows for quicker testing without waiting several years for new therapeutics to be developed and tested.
Drug repurposing is gaining a foothold in attempts to find ways to treat a variety of diseases and conditions recently considering that there are more than 14,830 pharmaceutical preparations or drugs. However, only about 1,517 drugs have been approved by the US FDA.
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