Twist Protein Significant Contributor to Breast Cancer Metastasis, Study Finds
Breast cancer tumor cells' ability to travel through the body and form distant tumors appears to rely on their ability to appropriate a "sleeper protein" that plays an important role in early embryonic development, according to a study published in the June 25 Cell.
The protein, known as Twist, regulates genes and is critical to cellular communication and cell allocation into various tissues during embryonic development. Twist typically remains dormant after embryo development is complete. However, in a study by a research team from the Whitehead Institute, led by Dr. Robert Weinberg, breast cancer tumor cells were shown to reactivate the protein. Thanks to this molecular hijacking, "cancer cells acquire in one fell swoop many of the abilities they need to execute the complex stages of metastasis," said Dr. Weinberg.
The study, funded in part by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), involved both a mouse model and tissue samples of human breast cancers, with each step in the investigation implicating Twist as a critical component of metastasis. The gene that encodes for Twist, the team found, was highly expressed in metastatic mouse tumor cell lines but not in nonmetastatic lines. To prove this point, metastatic mouse tumor cells devoid of Twist were injected into the mammary pads of mice. The result: Primary tumors formed but were unable to metastasize. Read more
Measuring Our Progress on Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is an ideal example of the successes, challenges, and setbacks we have experienced in our efforts to eradicate cancer. Prostate cancer remains the most common cancer overall and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in men. And, unfortunately, African American men continue to be disproportionately affected by prostate cancer to a significant degree.
Nevertheless, it's estimated that there are approximately 1.7 million prostate cancer survivors in the United States today and prostate cancer mortality has decreased by 4 percent per year since 1994 - evidence that we are indeed making progress against this particular foe. Read more