A new study, which was published in the journal Nature, is showing that breast cancer alters the structure of bones that make it easier to spread to new locations. Researchers from the University of Sheffield said the cancerous tumors end up fertilizing to the bones, which then help the cancerous tumors grow and spread. The new study also talks about how it could be possible to prevent the tumor from influencing and altering the bones, which could end up stopping the breast cancer from spreading.
About 85 percent of breast cancers that are spreading usually spread into the bones, which by that point the cancer is also impossible to treat, and it usually is deadly. The researchers ended up discovering that patients with the secondary cancers had higher levels of an enzyme called LOX, which is being produced by the tumors, and then is released into the blood. Bones are often being broken down and rebuilt, but the experiments on mice revealed that LOX disrupted that process, and then it left lesions and holes in the bones.
The researchers then used drugs that blocked LOX to prevent the cancer from spreading. This new research can help prevent secondary cancers in breast cancer patients. LOX specifically makes the environment around the bones vulnerable to these changes that occur when the tumors are trying to fertilize new areas. There are also tests from animals that have been done that show an osteoporosis drug called bisphosphonates can prevent the cancer from spreading. The bisphosphonates interfere with how the bone is recycled, which is important for gaining strength in the bones.
These drugs are already being given to some of the cancer patients, but the researchers believe this drug can be used in a much larger role. The only thing was that this new effect was only found in the oestrogen-negative breast cancers, which are about one-third of all breast cancer cases, but it is the most deadliest form of breast cancer. The findings might also be useful for other types of cancers, like colon cancers.
Due to the researchers discovering how LOX plays a role in the spreading of the cancer, the results of this study can open up another avenue in terms of research and treatments that might help stop breast cancer from spreading to the bones. This new research is also adding to evidence that supports the theory that bisphosphonates can stop the secondary breast cancer from forming. Since living with bone cancer as a secondary cancer from breast cancer often is a deadly diagnosis, many women end up with bone pain and fractures that require surgeries to try to correct. This is the time when women need to be spending time with friends and family, but because of the damages to the bone, they end up spending a lot of the time left on this Earth in the hospital.
The researchers are hoping that more research and funding can be put towards looking into bisphosphonates as the next step towards helping breast cancer survivors end the chances of getting a secondary cancer in the bone. Since a lot of cancers turn into secondary cancers, this could be a huge breakthrough in terms of helping people live longer with cancer, especially if it stops the cancer from spreading to more dangerous parts of the body, such as the bones and possibly even the brain. The researchers have not said if this treatment could work on children or how effective it would be on other cancers that are not geared towards typically middle-aged adults, but it is showing a lot of promise.