A protein called ‘alphaB-crystallin’ has been identified as a major reason of why breast cancer tends to metastasize to the brain.
A study led by Vincent Cryns, in collaboration with the cancer-research teams at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University and other institutions, has revealed that alphaB-crystallin aids brain metastasis in two ways.
Firstly, this protein is used by breast cancer cells to stick to endothelial cells that line the small blood vessels in the brain and secondly, alphaB-crystallin helps breast cancer cells to penetrate through the blood-brain barrier, which otherwise would not be possible.
Once the breast cancer cells enter the brain they end up forming metastases. This research was carried out on mouse models.
The research team concluded that the 'reduction of expression of alphaB-crystallin in breast cancer cells hindered the cells' ability to form brain metastases in mice.' Commenting on these findings Cryns stated that:
"these observations in our mouse models suggest that alphaB-crystallin may be a promising drug target that should be explored further."
He added that
"although there are no drug inhibitors of this protein currently, we are actively pursuing studies to identify drugs that might reduce the expression of the protein or block its effects."
One of the most common body areas where breast cancer tends to spread is the brain. Brain metastasis is considered to be an advanced breast cancer complication, with almost little or no treatment available.
This condition often goes undetected in patients till they begin developing symptoms like headaches, seizures and trouble thinking. Researchers now hope that this finding will further help in early diagnosis as well as improved treatment options for brain metastasis.