How a New Protein Tau Causes Metastasis in Breast Cancer

The origin of Cancer is not known yet. But the mechanism by which it affects the body is known. Initially, unhealthy cancer cells target a particular region of the body and convert the healthy cells into unhealthy ones. A chunk of unhealthy cancer cells is now formed technically called a Tumour. The signs of the disease remain latent until this phase. Thereafter, the unhealthy cancer cells start spreading to new and distinct locations of the body through blood stream. This process is called Metastasis. As a result, the symptoms of the disease become apparent. Diagnosis is useless as the disease by this stage becomes incurable. Researchers at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center have recently gained further insight into the mechanism of metastasis of breast cancer. The results of the study are published online in the March edition of the journal Oncogene. The discovery opens the door for finding new cancer drugs.

Knowledge Gained From the Research:

  • The breast cancer cells exterior surface is called the plasma membrane.
  • The study revealed that some extensions called “microtentacles” appear on the plasma membrane which play a vital role in breast cancer metastasis.
  • The formation of these microtentacles on the plasma membrane is caused by a protein called “Tau”.
  • Proteins are naturally present chemical substances which provide nourishment to cells.
  • The microtentacles break away from the primary breast cancer cells, travel through the blood stream to remote corners of the body and get attached with new blood vessels to form a fresh tumour site.
  • Normal healthy cells of the body naturally die after a particular period of time as instructed by the genes present inside them. This process is called Apoptosis.
  • Cancer cells are notorious of being immortal. The protein Tau have a special role in making the cancer cells immortal.
  • The study collected breast cancer cells from 102 patients and found that 52 percent patients had protein Tau in metastatic tumors.
  • In the case of 26 percent patients, the presence of Tau significantly increased as the cancer progressed from treatable to incurable stage.
  • Though the role of Tau protein in Metastasis of breast cancer is apparent from this study, the researchers believe that there are other factors too which are yet to be discovered.
  • The focus of the further research is on developing new drugs which can target Tau protein and inhibit its roles in the nourishment of microtentacles.

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