They identify a key protein to prevent breast cancer metastasis

HIR researchers have described the role of B3 integrin in cell-to-cell communication, key to the development of metastases.

A team of researchers from the Translational Molecular Pathology group of the Vall d’Hebron Research Institute ( VHIR ) in collaboration with the Cancer CIBER ( CIBERONC ) has described the role of the protein integrin B3 ( ITGB3 ) in  breast cancer metastasis . The study, published in  Nature Communications , shows the importance of integrin B3 in the uptake of vesicles by cells, which favors the formation of secondary tumors in other organs such as the lung. Thus, this protein could be a therapeutic target to prevent metastasis formation.

A  90% of deaths  caused by breast cancer are due to  metastasis in other organs , such as lung. For these metastases to occur, communication between tumor cells and also with the cells of the metastatic site is key. This cellular communication is based on the production of vesicles that are taken up by other cells and that contain factors that help to develop metastases. However, the mechanism that allows this to happen is not fully understood. “It is one of the first studies to describe the pathways that allow these vesicles to enter cells to promote tumor growth and the role that integrin B3 plays in this process,”  explains  Dr. Stefan Hümmer , researcher of the Translational Molecular Pathology group of the VHIR and the CIBERONC and one of the authors of the work .

The study, carried out in  cell cultures  in the laboratory, has verified that the  B3 integrin , a protein that serves as a connection between the outside and the inside of the cell, is necessary for the vesicles produced  by the environment to be  taken up by the cells.  tumor cells . “We have seen that when we inhibit the B3 integrin, the vesicles cannot be internalized and, therefore, there is no stimulus that favors tumor growth in the new organ to form metastasis” , comments  Dr. Santiago Ramon y Cajal , Head of the Translational Molecular Pathology group of the VHIR, head of the Pathological Anatomy Service of the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital and group leader of the CIBERONC .

This work is the continuation of other previous studies where it has been observed that B3 integrin increases in situations of oxygen deprivation and favors cell migration and metastasis. After this publication, the group is working on the  search for inhibitors of the B3 integrin , which would be a possible strategy to prevent cells from forming new colonies in other organs, that is, to avoid metastasis. Therefore, Dr. Ramon y Cajal stresses that  “these inhibitors would be specific for the control of metastases. For this reason, they should be administered in conjunction with other treatments directed at the primary tumor ”.

This mechanism of entry into cells, based on B3 integrin, has previously been observed in many herpes viruses when they infect human cells. These similarities have helped researchers to understand and study the entry pathway of vesicles taken up by cells.

At  Distefar we celebrate all the hopeful advances in science and research to combat this scourge. It should not be forgotten that, according to the latest  data collected  by the European Cancer Information System (ECIS), in 2018 a total of 32,825 new cases  of breast cancer were diagnosed  in Spain, with this type of tumor the most frequent among women in our country ahead of colorectal, uterine, lung and ovarian cancer. In Spain, approximately  30% of cancers  diagnosed in women originate in the breast.

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