Breast cancer, protein active in the process of metastasis has been identified
A protein, essential to our heartbeat, is involved also in breast cancer and it aids the process of metastasis in cancer cells. This is the discovery of a European research, led by the Department of Experimental and Clinical Medicine, University of Florence, published in the American journal Science Signaling [ “The conformational state of hERG1 channels Determines integrin association, downstream signaling, and cancer progression” Science Signaling 10, eaaf3236 (2017)].
“The work,” explains Annarosa Arcangeli, Professor of Pathology at University of Florence (pictured), “focuses on the study of a protein, hERG1, which regulates the heartbeat determining the electrical potential across the membrane of heart cells. We demonstrated,” continues Arcangeli, “that the same protein, in a specific conformation, i.e. linked to other receptors on the membrane of tumor cells, regulates the process of metastasis in breast cancer.”
The multidisciplinary research team — composed of young researchers and with the participation of Di.VAL, a spin-off of the University of Florence working in drugs R&D — included the universities of Milano-Bicocca, Leiden and Turin, as well as the National Institute of Optics of CNR. The project was funded by the Italian Association for Cancer Research (AIRC) and the Worldwide Cancer Research (WWCR).
“The results,” concludes Arcangeli, “pose a challenge to develop new drugs and molecular tools to block metastases without affecting the functioning of the protein in the heart. The road is still long but new paths in the fight against cancer have now been opened up.”