Study Unearths Trigger for Breast Cancer Metastasis

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The race to learn more about breast cancer continues and researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have found a new trigger of invasive forms of the disease. According to a study published in the journal Oncogene, a reduction in mitochondrial DNA causes breast cancer cells to become aggressive and metastatic.

These findings can help scientists understand why some people with breast cancer have a rapidly invasive form of the disease and why others don’t. Additionally, biomarkers may be singled out from this research, helping doctors identify those with aggressive cancer so they may adjust treatment accordingly.

“Reducing mitochondrial DNA makes mammary cells look like cancerous stem cells,” Narayan Avadhani, senior research investigator of the study, said in a statement. “These cells acquire the characteristics of stem cells, that is the ability to propagate and migrate, in order to begin the process of metastasis and move to distal sites in the body.”

The lead researcher was Manti Guha of the Penn School Veterinary Medicine. The study was jointly funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Harriet Ellison Woodward Trust.

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