According to new laboratory research, breast cancer cells can release a chemical that alters the structure of bones, which makes it easier for the cancer to spread.
Researchers based at the University of Sheffield conducted the study on mice.
If this discovery is confirmed in patients with breast cancer, it could lead to new ways to prevent the disease from spreading.
Scientists built on previous findings and found that when breast cancer cells release a chemical called lysyl oxidase. This chemical makes bone tissue a fertile ground for cancer cells to spread or metastasis.
Researchers estimate that about 85% of secondary breast cancers spread to the bone and this can impact the success of treatment.
The study shows that a chemical released by breast cancer cells can act directly on bone tissue, softening it, and making it easier for cancer cells to grow there.
According to researchers, when breast cancer spreads around the body it most often ends up in bone tissues, where it is very difficult to treat.
This research could help doctors identify which patients’ breast cancer is most likely to spread and presents new possibilities for preventing it.
Researchers were able to block the process in mice during the study with drugs that prevent bone loss called bisphosphonates, which is currently used to treat osteoporosis.
Previous studies have shown that bisphosphonates may be helpful in preventing breast cancer from spreading.
The next step is to find out exactly how the tumor secreted lysyl oxidase interacts with bone cells and then try to develop new drugs to stop this process.
Researchers also believe that this could have implications for how other bone diseases are treated.
This research is still in progress and more research is needed to confirm exactly how these drugs should be used.