Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States and many other places around the world today. But do you know how breast cancer spreads or what it does to the bone?

BBC news reports on what breast cancer does to the bone.

Most people are unaware of the fact that breast cancers can manipulate the structure of the bone; it does this to make it easier to spread there.

Tumors actually fertilize the bone so that they can spread there. But a new study, published in the journal Nature, say it might be possible to protect the bone from the tumor’s nefarious influence. This would stop the cancer’s spread.

“Cancer charities said this opened up a whole new avenue for research. Around 85% of breast cancers that spread around the body end up in bone, at which point the cancer is difficult to treat and more deadly,” according to BBC news.

The expert research team discovered patients with secondary cancers had increased levels of an enzyme that is called LOX being created by their tumors and taken out into the blood.

The bone is constantly being crushed down and built again. However in a series of experiments, the expert team showed LOX was disrupting the process and leaving lesions and holes in the bones.

Utilizing drugs to block LOX prevented the cancer from dissipating. Dr. Gartland, a researcher in bone and cancer biology at the university, told the BBC News website

"We think it's a significant breakthrough in trying to prevent metastases (secondary tumors) in breast cancer. The cancer cells in the primary tumor are actually fertilizing the soil for the future growth of itself, LOX is changing the environment in bone to make it better to grow."

So, what could prevent the spread of cancer to the bone?

The researchers’ tests showed that a set of osteoporosis drugs called bisphosphonates could prevent the spread of cancer. Bisphosphonates also block the way bone is recycled in order to make it stronger.

These medicines are already given to some cancer patients, but the Sheffield research team believes they could have a much larger role.

The effect of the drugs was discovered only in oestrogen-negative breast cancers. These account for around a third of cases, but are much more fatal.

Katherine Woods, from the Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer commented on the findings. She said,

“By unveiling the role that the protein LOX is playing, these results open up a whole new avenue for research and treatments that could stop breast cancer spreading to the bone. The research also adds weight to the growing body of evidence supporting the role of bisphosphonates in stopping secondary breast cancer in its tracks.”

She also said that the reality of living with secondary breast cancer in the bone is a stark one. It leaves numerous women with bone pain and fractures that require extensive surgery just when they need to be making the most of the time they have left with their loved ones.


Gerry Oginski
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